It is often said that there is a thin line between genius and madness. Well, Luis Suarez doesn’t so much cross that line as trample up and down on it.
His World Cup has to be over after sinking his teeth into Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini. FIFA will throw the book at Suarez, and he has no defence if he doesn’t kick a ball again this summer: it’s his third offence and I firmly believe he knew exactly what he was doing.
There is a difference here between seeing the red mist – which is something that all footballers go through at one stage or another – and an incident like this, which is so bizarre and crazy that you think there must be something else going on. You just wonder what is going on for him to react like he did.
Let’s get this straight: some pretty nasty stuff can happen on a football field. I have played with players who have taken no prisoners throughout my entire career – from Brian Honour at Hartlepool, through Julian Dicks at West Ham, and right up to Alex Rae at Sunderland.
I saw some horrendous tackles during my time with the potential to end careers. Sometimes, those players walked away with yellow cards or even got away with it, and so I am very careful when I talk about Suarez. He isn’t going to end anyone’s career by biting their shoulder, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something very serious.
What I struggle to get my head round is the nature of the offence and the fact he has done it three times. It is so childish to bite someone when things aren’t going your way – it’s the sort of thing that nursery school teachers have to deal with. So why does a grown man keep doing it?
What’s more, having done it twice in his career already – and paid a hefty price – what would possess you to do it again at the World Cup, with the entire world’s eyes trained on you?
I really think that Suarez needs some form of professional help now. Some people are wired differently from the rest of us and there is obviously something that short circuits when he’s in a high-pressure situation. There’s something uncontrollable in there and the crying shame is that it means that we’re not talking about one of the best talents of his generation for what he can do on the field.
He was superb against England, and I still think he’s one of the best of his generation. I love watching him play, but it comes with so much baggage now and that is the frustrating thing.
I don’t know whether Suarez will ever change, but I don’t think it helps that people around him – whether at Liverpool or in Uruguay – are always making excuses for him.
I understand why they do it, because he’s the best player that they’ve got and they instinctively rush to get behind him. But I don’t think it actually helps him.
The one time in my career I remember feeling really hurt was when Graeme Souness was asked about me and something I’d done and he told the press that a “leopard never changes his spots”.
It was the headline in every newspaper the next day and I was angry, hurt and humiliated. I felt really low and I was furious that it had been said about me, but it was a jolt. I had to change and I knuckled down after that. I wasn’t going to let anyone say that about me again.
There’s too much invested in Suarez for that to happen. He is just a bit more important than I was to Liverpool at the time, so they’ve got to look after a £60-70million asset. I think there will be a sense of “not again” at Anfield, but the ban won’t be a domestic one and he’ll be free to terrorise defences up and down the country again – if they don’t sell him this summer.
I think he’s blown his big move this summer, so the question is whether it will happen again and I would worry if I was a Liverpool fan. He seemed to have rehabilitated last season, he was doing everything right and proving so many people wrong.
But this has taken him right back to square one. Despite all he had put Liverpool and Uruguay through – with the team doctor even postponing his chemotherapy to treat his knee – he just simply hasn’t learned a thing. It is so, so disappointing.