Luis Suarez's strength is also his greatest flaw

Luis Suarez's greatest strength - his competitiveness - has also become his biggest flaw, as shown by the entire saga with Patrice Evra.
Luis Suarez's actions have had consequences on Liverpool.
Luis Suarez's actions have had consequences on Liverpool.

This is not an apology for Luis Suarez. That, the Liverpool forward delivered himself late on Sunday afternoon. It as an attempt at an explanation.

It is no easy task. Suarez's actions in breaking an agreement with Liverpool's manager that he would shake hands with Patrice Evra ahead of Saturday's meeting with Manchester United surprised even his close friends.

It has endangered his professional future and made Suarez the subject of almost universal criticism.

To do what Suarez did in a first start after the eight-game suspension imposed on him for repeatedly calling Evra "negro" when they last met on the football field was wrong. Full stop.

As Suarez said in his public apology: "I got things wrong. I've not only let [Kenny Dalglish, his manager] down, but also the club and what it stands for and I'm sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened.

"I should have shaken Patrice Evra's hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions."

There remains, though, the question why. In person, Suarez is an engaging, likeable man. The Uruguayan is playful, down-to-earth, impressively passionate about both his sport and his homeland.

Ask him about the moment he drew the ire of billions by punching away a shot that would have taken Ghana into a 2010 World Cup semi-final and Suarez will offer a pragmatic response.

The handball was instinctive, done to keep his nation in the most important of tournaments.

The criticism he received for it, he argues, was out of all proportion. How can stopping a goal with the hand - for which he was sent off - be worse than intentionally injuring an opponent with a reckless tackle?

Ultimately the moment was about winning, and it is Suarez's competitiveness that is his great strength and self-destructive flaw.

It is borne from a childhood in which he would walk long miles to train in Montevideo for the want of a bus fare. It has continued through his attempts to establish himself at the summit of the game.

The English Football Association accepts that Suarez did not call Evra "negro" because he is a racist, but that he did it to "wind up" his opponent. It was done to gain an advantage in a football match against his club's greatest rivals; a product of his ultra-competitive nature.

None of this is an excuse. Suarez has twice embarrassed the Premier League and Liverpool.

He is the centre of a storm that may usher Dalglish from the helm of a club that adores him. Suarez's apology may have to be followed by his exit.

Published: February 14, 2012 04:00 AM


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