In the hours before FIFA banned him for four months of “football-related activity,” you could sense where Luis Suarez wanted this to go.
He wanted to leave this tournament a footballing martyr. He also wanted to manipulate the circumstances of his employment. FIFA has just helped him accomplish both.
There was a great bureaucratic tongue-lashing given out, which won’t come close to touching Suarez. In fact, he didn’t seem at all bothered by the idea of missing the rest of the World Cup. An hour after the game against Italy – enough time to absorb that he’d been caught on camera and was doomed – he’d shrugged in the mixed zone like a man without worries.
To his way of thinking, he’d already gotten revenge in the one game that mattered – against England.
Since arriving there three years ago, Suarez has repeatedly claimed the English media has a vendetta against him. This despite the fact that he was just named the country’s footballer of the year.
In the presser following The Bite, there were three questions to Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez about it. All came from English journalists. Tabarez lost his cool and began lecturing them about “cheap morality.”
For whatever reason, Suarez has concocted a paranoid fantasy in which the forces of Europe have lined up against him. The Uruguayan football establishment has abetted him in this delusion.
“We don’t have any doubts that this has happened because it’s Suarez involved, and, secondly, because Italy have been eliminated,” his lawyer, Alejandro Balbi, told Uruguayan radio. “There’s a lot of pressure from England and Italy.”
That story is impossible to disprove, and will therefore live forever. Suarez is now able to pass himself off as a victim in the only place he’ll care about - back home.
After two goals against England and a great deal of post-match jabbering, Suarez’s desire palpably drained. He was half-hearted against Italy. It’s also important to remember that he underwent knee surgery a month ago. Those are now some very valuable knees, and Suarez may want to protect them.
One of the several ways to look at his biting of defender Giorgio Chiellini is as a way to end an unwanted professional commitment.
Surely, he understood that he was headed home once he bit someone. For the third time. Suarez is unhinged, but he’s also proven himself a wonderful facilitator at getting the things he wants.
So, having showed up the country he hates, he grows bored and frustrated and bites the Italian. He gets banned for however many games. He goes home, where he starts his real work of the summer – leaving England.
As such, there is a malign brilliance to what Suarez has accomplished here.
Suarez will not be able to play for his club, Liverpool, until November 1st. He’ll miss a quarter of the Premiership season. He’ll also be absent for the beginning of Liverpool’s crucial Champions League campaign.
They began last year in similar straits. Suarez missed the first several weeks as he served out a ban for another biting incident – this time against Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
This must be getting very old for them.
From the beginning of this tournament, there was a clear whisper campaign under way to plant the idea of Suarez leaving Liverpool. His father-in-law gave an interview to Spanish TV in which he said it was time for Suarez to decamp England for Spain.
A former teammate in the Dutch league was dredged up to assert that it was always Suarez’s dream to play at Barcelona.
And then, lo-and-behold, those very rumours began to surface. Last summer, Suarez flirted outrageously with Real Madrid, saying he would do anything to leave England. When that got nowhere, he switched his sights to Arsenal – which you’ll recall is in England. Neither move came off. Suarez signed a new deal with Liverpool that extends until 2018.
Now, Barcelona has reportedly made a gigantic cash-and-players pitch that would include $150-million, Chile’s Alexis Sanchez and Spain’s Pedro.
That would be a very difficult offer to turn down.
Nonetheless, Liverpool will not want to sell. Or, to put it more precisely, will not want to be seen to be selling. They’ve just bobbed to the surface of the Premiership for the first time years. Suarez may be the best striker on the planet. Selling him will seem like a surrender or, worse yet, a confirmation of their minor league status.
But Suarez has created the path by which everyone gets to their hoped-for destination.
The ban makes him a toxic commodity. Liverpool does not have the depth to cover his weeks-long absence. Barcelona does.
So, he gets to leave. Liverpool can let him leave. Barcelona gets their man.
Having tried once to disentangle himself from the Premiership, Suarez realized he would have to take more dramatic measures. Those would require rendering himself a pariah in England, paving the way for his exit.
This is not to suggest that was running through his mind in the moment he sank his teeth into Chiellini. But perhaps he’d been thinking about it long before.
Full text of FIFA statement on Uruguay’s Luis Suarez:
The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has reached a decision in the case related to Luis Suarez of Uruguay following an incident that occurred during the FIFA World Cup match between Italy and Uruguay played on 24 June 2014.
The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has decided that:
The player Luis Suarez is regarded as having breached art. 48 par. 1 lit. d of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC) (assault), and art. 57 of the FDC (an act of unsporting behaviour towards another player).
The player Luis Suarez is to be suspended for nine (9) official matches. The first match of this suspension is to be served in the upcoming FIFA World Cup fixture between Colombia and Uruguay on 28 June 2014. The remaining match suspensions shall be served in Uruguay’s next FIFA World Cup match(es), as long as the team qualifies, and/or in the representative team’s subsequent official matches in accordance with art. 38 par. 2a) of the FDC.
The player Luis Suarez is banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) for a period of four (4) months in accordance with art. 22 of the FDC.
A stadium ban is pronounced against the player Luis Suarez in accordance with art. 21 of the FDC as follows: the player Luis Suarez is prohibited from entering the confines of any stadium during the period of the ban (point 3). The player Luis Suarez is prohibited from entering the confines of any stadium in which the representative team of Uruguay is playing while he has to serve the nine-match suspension (point 2).
The player Luis Suarez is ordered to pay a fine in the amount of 100,000 Swiss francs.
The decision was notified to the player and the Uruguayan FA today.