They say every genius comes with a dash of madness. Talent at its utmost is counteracted by temperament at its worst. Universal acknowledgement is offset by the infuriating capacity to persistently divide opinion. A gifted individual is often the most troubled.
And in the enigmatic Luis Suarez, we have the perfect example. Everything a footballer could ever want to be and more, Suarez has, at the same time, everything one could loathe to come with it.
A 25-year-old footballer with the world at his feet. A child who once had to decline entry to a tournament as he could not afford football boots. A national hero who led his native Uruguay to the 2011 Copa America title. A father to his young daughter. A husband to his childhood girlfriend.
And yet a seemingly brutal and ruthless character who last season was handed an eight-match ban for racial abuse, who dove in front of David Moyes to celebrate his opener against Liverpool’s cross-city rivals Everton in October and – depending on which Premier League manager you ask – has dived in pretty much every other game he has played in this season.
A man who was accused of a blatant handball against Southampton at the weekend, and who used a similar ploy to seal the fate of a hopeful Ghanaian nation looking to become the first ever African World Cup semi-finalists in 2010. He celebrated, of course, when Asamoah Gyan missed the resultant penalty kick.
And then there was that time he bit an opponent while playing for Ajax. Suarez, for his life, is no angel. But every genius… as they say. Jekyll and Hyde.
There was once another such genius. A man who went by the name of Zinedine Zidane – whose infamous moment of madness has since been immortalized by a Parisian statue.
The Frenchman, too, had the world at his feet: a glorious, illustrious career behind him and a nation of fans revering him. His audacious chipped penalty in the 2006 World Cup Final for France against Italy all but confirmed that one of the greatest players in history was ready for the biggest occasion the sport had to offer.
But he fell off the rails. For whatever reason – he couldn’t hack it, and when Marco Materazzi allegedly insulted a female relative of his (some reports say mother, some say sister) and his Algerian heritage, Zizu lost it. The ensuing head butt he unleashed unto the Italian centre-back has remained an iconic image ever since. Therein lies definitive proof, if you ever needed it: genius and madness go hand in hand.
Mr Suarez is, for those same reasons, a complete intrigue. Whole psychology courses could be devoted to his study. But he is worth his weight in gold – and possibly a lot more than the £23m Liverpool paid for him.
And it is fitting, too, that it is Anfield no less where the 25-year-old now plies his trade. An arena of so many past champions, but a place filled with hurt and, more than anything else recently – disappointment. Does this explain then why the antagonistic protagonist has finally found home?
It’s clear the prolific striker feels loved and reciprocates that same feeling with those who sit in the Kop every week. He embodies commitment, wears his heart on his sleeve. And, even though he scored 111 goals in 159 games for Ajax – many as captain, it is only now that he is playing the football of his life.
First Kenny Dalglish and now Brendan Rodgers have reaped the rewards of having such a unique, flamboyant and mesmerizingly skilled forward in their side. Whether the UK-born coaches have really been behind the Uruguayan’s success remains unknown – but they are certainly witnessing greatness.
Be it clinical finishes from inside the box or curvaceous shots from 30 yards – often, even further – the Uruguayan is capable of it all and has proven it time and time again this season. When Suarez has the ball, you simply do not know what will happen next.
Added to already vital contributions in recent years, the front man has scored 10 goals and created 37 chances so far this term. Four of his strikes have been from outside the box, two have been headed and one was struck with his weaker left foot – just for good measure.
He is currently the joint top scorer in the Premier League and the focal point of any Liverpool attack. The Uruguayan is even bordering on taking the mantle of being ‘Mr Liverpool’ from the talismanic Steven Gerrard and filling the gaping hole left by the devastating departure of Fernando ‘El Nino’ Torres. His 10 league goals this season equate to 53% of Liverpool’s total goals. His contribution cannot be overstated in a relatively goal shy Liverpool side.
Such is the 25-year-old’s impact that when he is suspended for Liverpool’s upcoming clash with West Ham at Upton Park, the Reds will no doubt struggle to provide any sort of attacking threat as potent as when the Uruguayan marksman is on the field. Much will be made of Liverpool’s lack of cover in this area, but in truth, few strikers, if any, could successfully fill in for the divisive Suarez.
Indeed, when all is said and done, every hero needs a villain. And in Suarez we have both. It is such characters that make our game so special and so primitively entertaining. He will be remembered. And in the years after his time, those that despise the Uruguayan will be the first to admit that he will be sorely missed.