James Lawton: The way Suarez plays for love of game at Liverpool should make Tevez feel ashamed

 

Before the atrocious behaviour of Carlos Tevez disappears down the great hole being dug by legal strategists and apologists so cynical they might soon be telling us their man is a victim of sweatshop work practice, we might just banish the stench of it all at Goodison Park during the Merseyside derby.

We can do this best by considering the demeanour and the meaning of another South American footballer who, although not always a paragon of human perfection, reminds us of what drew us to the battered old game in the first place.

Do you remember? Things like passion and brilliance and a ferocious love of the action.

Last weekend Luis Suarez was removed from the field by his Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish shortly after scoring a goal of wonderful touch and acumen. His reaction was to scowl and kick a water bottle. If Dalglish was less than enamoured at that moment, his irritation was surely put into an entirely different perspective when Tevez staged his shameless rebellion in Munich.

Suarez, who cost Liverpool roughly half the price Manchester City paid for Tevez, has been a sensational signing. He wears the number seven shirt once filled by Dalglish, Kevin Keegan and Peter Beardsley with great pride not, you have to believe, for its iconic Anfield number but because it is the badge of his professional employment.

The 24-year-old Uruguayan is indeed the embodiment of the image of a footballer Graeme Souness reached out for in his rage over the refusal of £200,000-plus-a-week Tevez to perform his professional duty.

As the three-time European Cup winner for Liverpool pointed out, professional footballers almost invariably are created by their love of the game. It is the thing they both do best and most like to do. That was the betrayal by Tevez, the one which Souness found so unforgivable.

If Suarez presents any kind of problem at Liverpool, it is maybe that his biting style of play, his often sublime understanding of space and time is currently creating an embarrassing comparison with the much more expensive Andy Carroll. Suarez is a finished product, marvellously polished; Carroll is a sluggish work in halting progress.

This, however, is scarcely a problem for the player who learned his football on the streets of Montevideo, who was precocious enough to earn a call-up to the national youth squad at the age of 11 but too poor to buy a pair of boots. One of seven brothers brought up by his mother, for Suarez football appears to be more a celebration of good luck than a career choice.

No, as we were saying, he is not quite perfect. Though his career at Ajax of Amsterdam was meteoric, it was not exactly free of pockmarks. He was suspended for seven games for biting the shoulder of PSV player Otman Bakkal and his route to the status of Netherlands Player of the Year and scorer of 49 goals in all competition was festooned with yellow cards. First he was known as El Pistolero, the Gunfighter, then it was the Cannibal of Ajax. But then for every stumble, there is fresh evidence of a player hungry to be involved in the game, not just for its rewards but its extraordinary exhilaration.

It is here that the dichotomy between Suarez on the Anfield touchline and Tevez in Munich becomes so huge. At West Ham, Manchester United and City, Tevez relentlessly milked the affection of the fans. They liked his power to influence a game, he liked their ability to give him a power base beyond the easy control of any manager. In Munich we saw the anarchic potential of such a strategy – and wondered all over again how it is that the Premier League has not been more zealous in the matter of stripping English football of outside influences, in Tevez's case his non-registered agent Kia Joorabchian.

Tevez, along with his countryman Javier Mascherano, was once the property of a consortium that included Joorabchian. It gave us the fiasco of the inquiry into the registration of Tevez which left West Ham with a £5m fine – a fraction of the cost of the relegation that would surely have happened to them but for a signing found to be illegal.

A mere fragment of the past, you might say, but one which does not exactly speak of any grounding of Tevez in the concept of loyalty to any one club or set of supporters or still less to a manager who is perceived to have been unhelpful in the development of a career which, from its outset, appears to have been based on the supremacy of personal opportunity.

Looked at from from such a perspective, it is maybe not quite so hard to understand why Tevez felt free to effectively sneer at the club who pay him a fortune each week and the man they appointed to run the team.

Meanwhile, Kenny Dalglish has a worry that is made to look ever more blessedly slight. When does he withdraw, if at all, a player of ultimate competitiveness, who last year immersed himself in the World Cup aspirations of fourth- placed Uruguay so completely he was quite happy to make himself the most hated man in Africa when he thwarted Ghana with a hand-ball on his own goal-line? It was just another little tumult along the way. In his first game for Uruguay he scored against Colombia and was then sent off for two yellow cards.

It is also true, however, that when Luis Suarez wasn't provoking to rage the fervent African fans, he was looking around the townships and enrolling himself for solidarity work on behalf of the poor and the marginalised he knew so well in his formative years.

In much less than a year he has joined the pantheon of great footballers who have performed on Merseyside. He has done it not only with extraordinary ability. Plainly, he is a footballer who cares about what he does. That would make him admirable in any old week. In this one, he might well be travelling up among the stars.

Anfield legends put on a fine show to celebrate Shankly

One of the great Bill Shankly's more dubious declarations was that his brave and excellent player Geoff Strong was superior to the legendary Bobby Moore.

Magnetically, and perhaps a little eerily, this opinion will come wafting down the years at the The Southport Theatre next Friday night when the 30th anniversary of the former Liverpool manager's death is marked in one of the increasingly polished productions created by Merseyside football writer and broadcaster John Keith.

As usual, Keith will be assisted by a cast that includes former Anfield heroes Ian St John, Chris Lawler, Ian Callaghan and Ronnie Yeats, plus Steve Hazlehurst, the actor whose portfolio includes a brilliant evocation of Dixie Dean.

The latest tribute to Shankly is hugely enhanced by the uncovering of a tape which features him in full, uninhibited flow. More than 40 clips will be included in the show. Not all of them, however, will support the warm theory long held here that if Shanks was a man of passion and genius he was also from time to time completely off his head.

Bull-fighting may not be sport but it certainly is a ritual

There was always one certain consequence of recalling an afternoon of unforgettable bull-fighting involving Manuel 'El Cordobes' Benitez and Diego Puerta in the Plaza Monumental in Barcelona, which last weekend was legislated into Catalan history.

It was a tide of protest from the animal rights lobby which, quite apart from legitimately raising arguments of some moral force, almost invariably contained an apparently unshakeable error. It was the old claim that a bull-fight is a hopelessly lopsided sports contest.

Of course it has never been that. Take away the picadors, and the idea of a level match between a fast, huge fighting bull and a relatively puny individual dressed in a suit of lights is quite risible. No, the bull-fight is not a sports event but a ritual whose integrity – rightly or wrongly – depends on the courage of both the animal and the man. The bull always dies, true – but the ritual lives only to the degree of risk and nerve displayed by the matador.

Ban it if we must – but let's first understand what it meant – and why.

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