Soccer: What now for 'Cannibal' Suarez?

By Tim Rich of the Independent

Brendan Rodgers will talk to Liverpool's American owners before deciding whether Luis Suarez has a future at the club.

Faced with pictures of the striker appearing to bite the Chelsea defender, Branislav Ivanovic, the Liverpool manager said the striker's reputation would count for nothing when the club conducted its review of an incident as shocking as anything seen in English football since Eric Cantona launched himself at a Crystal Palace fan in January 1995.

In the 66th minute, Suarez appeared to grab Ivanovic around the waist and then sink his teeth into his arm. The defender protested to the referee, Kevin Friend, who seemed not to have seen it.

With the incident certain to be reviewed by the FA, the striker, whose instinctive brilliance conjured both goals in a 2-2 draw, may have played his last match of the season.

Whether he has played his last match for Liverpool is in the balance. The clubs former manager, Graeme Souness, argued the 24-year-old was in the last chance saloon. It remains to be seen whether the clubs owner, John W Henry, will call time.

Players are always replaceable, it does not matter how good they think they are, said Rodgers. There have been some wonderful talents here over the years but when you think you cannot replace a player another comes along.

The standards of this football club have always been met and that is what makes it the institution it is. The history of this club is about respect and how people are treated and that will be maintained long after I am gone.

When asked if he would seek advice from Henry before taking action, Rodgers replied that he would. Fenway Sports Group will have to balance Suarez's immense value to Liverpool with the damage he is doing to the clubs brand. In an interview published on the morning of the match, the Uruguayan indicated he was happy to remain on Merseyside despite the absence of Champions League football.

In October 2006, when Jermain Defoe bit Javier Mascherano during a match between Tottenham and West Ham, the FA were unable to impose a ban because the referee, Steve Bennett, had already punished it with a yellow card. This is not the case now. The former Liverpool assistant manager, Phil Thompson, thought Suarez would receive a 10-game ban at least.

When Cantona launched himself into the crowd at Selhurst Park, Manchester United unilaterally suspended him for the remainder of the season before the FA extended his suspension by a further four months, although Alex Ferguson persuaded Cantona to remain at Old Trafford.

However, Souness and the former Liverpool captain, Jamie Redknapp, argued that Suarez's position at Anfield was close to untenable. When in November 2010, playing for Ajax against PSV Eindhoven, Suarez bit an opponent, Otman Bakkan, he was punished with a seven-match ban and never played in the Dutch Eredivisie again.

Rodgers countered by pointing out that Fernando Torres had appeared to elbow Jamie Carragher during today's game but biting is regarded on a different level. How he deals with this incident may go a long way towards determining Rodgers's future at Anfield.

Souness, commentating for Sky Television, reminded his audience that the blind loyalty Kenny Dalglish had shown Suarez when he was accused of racially abusing the Manchester United defender, Patrice Evra, had contributed to his downfall as Liverpool manager last year.

"I know Kenny as well as anyone", said Souness. "He backed Suarez right up to the hilt. Who knows how much that contributed to Kenny not being here any more? This man - Rodgers - is going to do the exact same thing."

It is embarrassing and Suarez is making it very difficult for himself to stay at the club. It is important to safeguard an institution that in global terms is up there with Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The board have to sit down and discuss it as we are risking everything this great club stands for. There are lines you cannot cross and he has done that.


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