Former Liverpool winger John Barnes has added his input to the Luis Suarez debate by claiming the striker thinks he is superior to his team-mates when he should actually accept the responsibility of the club’s failure to qualify for the Champions League.
Suarez accused Liverpool of reneging on a verbal agreement that allowed him to leave this summer, and manager Brendan Rodgers has sent the Uruguayan international to train with the reserve squad as punishment for his outburst until he learns to respect the club and his fellow players.
Barnes feels having an inflated opinion of themselves is a common problem with modern-day footballers, identifying the fans’ adoration as the reason for this.
Suarez was cheered by Reds’ fans during Steven Gerrard’s testimonial and also an open-training session last week, but that feeling is unlikely to be repeated following his comments earlier this week.
"Why are you so surprised? This situation has been going on for years," said Barnes, after he was voted seventh in the club’s website’s ‘100 players who shook the Kop’ poll – coincidentally two places behind the 26-year-old.
"This is the future of modern football we have created. The media and especially the fans have empowered players too much to make them feel that a) they are better than their team-mates and b) they're better than their clubs.
"We've seen it at Arsenal where so many players have left because Arsenal cannot match their ambitions, and the fans are the ones who have created this superstar culture whereby you've separated the team and the superstars to feel more important than the club.
"What has empowered him (Suarez) and the likes of (Fernando) Torres is they feel the team is losing not because of them but because of their team-mates.
"Suarez is saying he needs to go because they've not qualified for the Champions League, but he was part of the team that failed to do that.
"He has to take responsibility for that. He's saying, 'I've done my job, I'm good enough, but the players I'm playing with aren't'.
"Our superstar players feel they are untouchable. We've gone too far and there's no way back."
Barnes clearly felt that this is a growing problem within the game, but he offered advice to fans over how they could prevent the matter arising each time a player wanted to leave their club.
"Don't fall in love with players because they will leave given the right circumstances," he told talkSPORT.
"Support the club, support the group and then, if any player wants to step out of line, we won't support him.
"Maybe then they won't get over-inflated egos and behave the way they do."
Rodgers was incensed with his striker’s comments, and promptly spoke out of his anger.
"There were no promises made - categorically none - and no promises broken," Rodgers said after Liverpool’s 4-1 friendly win over Valerenga in Norway last night.
"The club and his representatives had several conversations and he knew exactly where he was at.
"I will take strong, decisive action. There has been total disrespect of the club - this is a club that is historically one of the biggest in the world and has given him everything; absolutely everything.
"I don't believe there is a clause in his contract that says he can leave for any sort of price."
The dispute seems to have pushed Suarez closer to the Anfield exit, with the club’s players, officials and fans unlikely to forgive the forward, who scored 23 league goals last term, in a hurry.
Rodgers seemed to suggest that it would be difficult for Suarez to be reintegrated into the squad after what he said, claiming a complete disrespect of the club as his reasoning.
"We first of all need to assess where (the situation) is,” added the Northern Irishman.
"Things have been said that are derogatory against the football club, his team-mates and the supporters.
"There's a few bridges to cross before that (playing for Liverpool) can happen again.
"It's about respect - that's the only thing we look for. This is one of the most iconic football clubs in the world. You can't disrespect it."
And on the prospect that Suarez could apologise for his behaviour, he said: "That's something I will ensure before anything happens in the future."
- More about:
- Fall In Love
- Liverpool FC
- Premier League
- Stephen Carter
- Steven Gerrard
- UEFA Champions League