Is there loyalty in sports?
There are loyal die-hard fans that have grown up supporting certain teams since birth. There are coaches who are loyal to players that continue to produce at a high level. There are owners that are loyal to coaches who continue to win and exceed expectations. But can you ever truly be loyal as a player?
Most Liverpool supporters today would tell you that Luis Suarez lacks loyalty, is ungrateful and arrogant. Looking at the Suarez-Liverpool situation from an unbiased point of view, there are factors at play that a fan must take into account before vilifying Suarez.
Fans must realize that they are the only people that exhibit unconditional loyalty in sports. Loyalty in almost every aspect of life is conditional, sports is no different.
A Liverpool supporter will list off the incidents that Suarez has been in the wrong and cling to the fact that his teammates, coaches, fans and ownership have supported him. Some of the high profile issues Suarez has encountered include the racial abuse incident involving Patrice Evra of Manchester United or the Branaslav Ivanovic of Chelsea biting catastrophe, which both earned him lengthy suspensions. Isn’t that what loyalty is all about? Support no matter the level of wrongdoing?
Despite these egregious acts, everyone involved with Liverpool Football Club supported Suarez for one simple fact; he is by miles the best player on the team. If Suarez was Sebastian Coates or Jordan Henderson and committed the same offenses, he would have been on the first thing smoking out of Liverpool. These are truths only whispered in corners, no one wants to come out and speak on this contentious subject.
Take for example the Riley Cooper issue. NFL fans knew if Jeremy Macklin didn’t tear his ACL in practice, than Riley Cooper would have most likely been cut for the use of a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert. By NFL standards, Cooper is an average receiver at best, and would of been cut without a second thought had it not been for Macklin’s knee injury. Would it have been a lack of loyalty on the Philadelphia Eagles part had they cut Cooper?
Suarez came to Liverpool in 2010 for €22.8M from the Dutch club Ajax. Since the Uruguayan International has set foot on English soil, he has been nothing short of spectacular. In 96 appearances with Liverpool, he has tallied up an incredible 51 goals and 24 assists. Understanding the world-class talent that Suarez is, it is simple to understand why Liverpool is keen on retaining his services.
Arsenal had two bids reportedly rejected by Liverpool for Suarez. The latest one reported to be €40M plus 1, which Suarez’s representatives believe activated a clause in his contract. A clause that Liverpool vehemently denies. Liverpool has Champions League ambition and knows that selling Suarez to a direct rival in contention for one of the four Champions League spots isn’t good business.
Suarez claims he was promised if Liverpool didn’t qualify for a Champions League birth and a team that did come calling, they would sell the striker. Suarez is essential to Liverpool’s efforts going forward and the whole organization knows if Champions League football is in their future, Suarez is a necessity.
Meanwhile, Pepe Reina, a Spain International, a consummate professional, Liverpool’s number one goalkeeper since 2005, was loaned to Napoli without being notified first. Liverpool signed Simon Mignolet, a Belgium International from Sunderland for €11M, amid reports of interest in Reina from Barcelona. Has Liverpool shown loyalty in this instance? Should Liverpool not be held to the same standard? Reina’s form has dipped over the past couple of years, making it easy for Liverpool to ignore loyalty and think business.
Suarez is one of the best strikers in the world, in the prime of his career, does he not owe it to himself to play for a club in the Champions League? There is no loyalty in sports. The more talented you are, the more they are willing to put up with. Sports is about winning and money; nothing else matters. These are the only two things organizations are loyal to. The minute Suarez stops scoring goals and playing at the level the Liverpool faithful are accustomed to seeing, the world will see where their loyalties lie.