Mark Douglas: Suarez’s debt to Reds is... nothing

The recent saga surrounding Liverpool's Luis Suarez has posed the question of loyalty in football these days

Scott Barbour/Getty Images Luis Suarez of Liverpool

Liverpool's globe-trotting pre-season jaunt has taken in Jakarta, Melbourne and Bangkok this summer. Judging by the rush of hot air coming from Anfield sources surrounding Luis Suarez, you’d think they’d spent most of the close season on a different planet.

The Suarez saga – for that is what it has become – has become world sporting news. Yesterday morning, a national radio station reacted to the latest dispatch surrounding the surly South American by devoting an hour of airtime to a debate about whether loyalty meant anything in the modern game.

Meanwhile, over in Australia Reds fans shout themselves hoarse in an attempt to persuade Suarez to ignore the overtures of Arsenal.

It’s almost cute that they believe it matters a jot. Their rude awakening is around the corner and they can come and join the rest of us in the modern world where we are more at peace with the way transfer windows work. There was something refreshing about the measured reactions of North East supporters to the speculation surrounding Yohan Cabaye and Simon Mignolet this summer. Some might call it a lack of ambition or giving up the fight when there is no outrage that good players want to leave the patch but in this case, realism is to be applauded.

After all, if Mignolet – a nice kid, honest and intelligent – shows so little sentiment why should we get emotional over his departure? He’s only a goalkeeper, after all. Thanks for the service Simon, but we’ll really be fine without you.

The same is true of Cabaye. It would be a shame if he left for Paris Saint- Germain but, really, don’t we all have better things to get worked up over?

Demba Ba was a pretty cold character in his time on Tyneside, but I actually warmed to his coolly cynical attitude in the first part of last season. Ba was a latecomer to the world of professional football, but his ruthless ambition overrode everything. He wanted to play at the highest level he could and he worked damned hard to get there.

He was attracted to Newcastle because it offered him a bigger stage than West Ham and more money than other clubs were offering. He wasn’t bothered that United structured the deal in a way that allowed them to cast him aside if his knee problems returned because he backed himself to deliver while at St James’ Park.

And deliver he did: 29 goals in 54 games. He was a big reason why United reaches the heights of fifth in his first season; and his goals mined vital points for Newcastle as they struggled last term. But it was never, ever emotional. He never pretended – like Suarez – that there were ties that binded him to Newcastle. Asked several times to declare his loyalty for the club last summer, he demurred.

He wasn’t about to play to the galleries when he knew his desire was to take the fast-track to the top.

Yet his ambition never stood in the way of Newcastle’s progress. He did not take to Senegalese airwaves to speak of his desire to leave, unlike Suarez in his interviews in Uruguay.

A transfer request was never, ever in his mind. So Ba, for all that he represents the worst of the hitmen for hire that typify his generation of footballer, treated us with a measure of respect. He did his job, Newcastle supporters respected him for that and his move to Chelsea was not a moment for sadness at St James’ Park.

Respect is the word. Cabaye, to his credit, is getting on with it but we suspect that he harbours a desire to move on. Mignolet was the same. That’s all we can ask from any of them really.

For Liverpool to cling to the notion that Suarez owes them loyalty is an epic misjudgement of the times we live in. It also illustrates why they were wrong to indulge him for so long as he bit, snarled and swore his way to their affections.

Clubs are meant to be bigger than any individual who represents them, but at Anfield they seem to have lost sight of that.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer