It might not seem so, to a bemused outside world, but there is a deepening sense of desperation about Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney and their two-man I'm a Celebrity, Get me out of Here show.
For Rooney, the ogre Sir Alex Ferguson was first trotted out as a reason to escape; then there was some umbrage taken over a few fairly inoffensive quotes from David Moyes; and then the alleged coolness of his team-mates. (Of which there is actually none.)
For Suarez, it's been the detestable British press, the adorable Real Madrid and, on Tuesday night, his claim that the Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, had reneged on an agreement to let him out of the club. This is all part of the dance, as Rodgers likes to say, the transfer request in its modern form, but complex though it all seems, the strategies Manchester United and Liverpool require are surely quite clear. They must not, on any grounds, sell these players to Chelsea and Arsenal.
"They'll fall in value," you might say, "£40m lost." But no depreciation will cost their clubs as dearly as the transfers they seek. Rooney leaving for Chelsea would signal defeat for David Moyes in his first major test as manager – the one for which all the eyes in the dressing room are on him, assessing whether he has what it takes to manage the best. Ferguson had a similar test, bequeathed to him by predecessors who had not tackled the drinking culture. He sold Norman Whiteside and Paul McGrath. Retaining a player with the capacity to be truculent, disrespectful and a pain around the place will be more difficult. But it's a price worth paying for Moyes to prove United are still the ones who make the decisions and are in control.
Any thought of a player diminishing in value or Liverpool losing millions by not selling Suarez for £45m or £50m in the next two weeks must be weighed against the advantage potentially handed to Arsenal in securing future Champions League football at the Anfield club's expense. Rodgers must also consider the detrimental effect on the club's image in the transfer market, lacking any of those players whom the whole world wants.
Banishing Suarez from the first-team squad is a bold move. But it also projects Liverpool's image as a club with pride. He will stew on it and be offended, no doubt, but what will happen when the season starts? He will want to play, as he always does. And how will the fans respond? A little coolly, until he begins to score. Supporters are too inured to these fits of pique by players on six-figure weekly salaries to feel lasting dislike. Carlos Tevez showed us disdain is a fleeting feeling.
Time for the clubs to take a stand. Liverpool restored a little pride to the game last night, reminding us that their stadium was once the one which the best beat a path to, never once squealing that they wanted away.Reuse content