The good, the bad and the ugly.
At times, not even Sergio Leone could write a script for what Luis Suarez is going to do next.
Having just completed a season for Liverpool in which he was the Premier League’s leading goalscorer, won both the PFA Players and FWA Footballer of the year awards, and been hailed as one of the best players on the planet, he goes from the sublime to the ridiculous during the World Cup.
From not being fit enough following knee surgery to compete in Uruguay’s opening and disappointing defeat to Costa Rica, to his performance to almost single-handedly carry his nation to a victory over England, he then responds by biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
The bite has seen the Uruguay suspended from all football-related activity for four months and has been banned for nine international matches, ruling him out of the rest of the 2014 Fifa World Cup and the 2015 Copa America, and at least the first nine games of the Premier League season, three Champions League matches and at least one Capital One Cup tie.
It was just incomprehensible that you would bite someone on the middle of a football field. Understanding what you could gain from doing it is just not possible. Acts of violence on the field such as a punch or a kick may be just as abhorrent but at least seem to have a purpose; it can rough someone up or hurt them to the point of having to be replaced. A bite on the shoulder is not going to do that, and judging by the way that Suarez was holding his teeth after the act, it probably hurt him more than the opponent.
Biting is an act that is associated with a toddler who isn’t getting their own way, not with a 27 year old married man with a child of his own.
And of course, this is not the first time that he has been involved in a biting controversy, having been banned for seven games for biting Otman Bakkal in his Ajax days; an act that was his final one for Ajax.
Then there was the bite of Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea last season which saw him banned for ten games, an eight game ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra, a one game ban for making an obscene gesture to a Fulham fans, plus other bans for accumulation of yellow cards that will mean that he has been suspended for more than 40 club fixtures since 2010 without actually picking up a red card.
Asked if the incident would affect the player’s time at the club, Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre said after his second biting incident: “Not at all. Luis is a very important player to the club.”
A quote not entirely surprising given that he was serving his first ban for biting when they signed him in January 2011.
But owner John W Henry and manager Brendan Rodgers must have reacted with despair to Suarez’s bite, and to the level of punishment inflicted upon him and them for an incident that did not happen on their watch but will affect them and is starting to damage the brand.
Already, 888poker have cancelled their sponsorship deal with Suarez, while other sponsors are not exactly likely to be thrilled with having their brand attached to him.
Suarez had become a figure of fun with the world lining up to take their shots at him, and his defence to the incident has not helped with cause, with it being akin to the “dog ate my homework” excuse.
“I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent,” wrote Suarez in his defence to Fifa.
“At that moment, I hit my face against the player, leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth.”
In a Fifa disciplinary committee document, the Liverpool striker added: “In no way did it happen the way you have described, as a bite or intent to bite.”
However, a seven-man Fifa panel concluded that the bite was “deliberate, intentional and without provocation”.
In its reasoning, Fifa added: “At no time did the player show any kind of remorse or admit to any violation of Fifa rules and therefore showed no awareness of having committed any infraction.”
The World Cup will surely miss Suarez’s talent – without him against Columbia, Uruguay were a shadow of the team in that had beaten England and Italy – but his inability to control urges that have proved to be a blight on the game for clubs and country will not be missed.
All of which sums up the quandary around the Uruguayan. You know what you are going to get from him. You know he will add value on the field. He will score goals. He will drive the team on. You know that he is a player that virtually any club in the world would like to have in their squad.
But you also know that he will bring controversy and turmoil to the club. He will never be universally liked. He will bring the name of the club into disrepute. He will perform actions that most rational human beings could not even conceive of doing.
Last time, Liverpool concluded that Suarez is still worth the hassle. He is still good enough on the field to put up with his antics. But they also know that they really have no idea as what he will do next.
If they want to keep him, they will have to put up with a man who seems incapable of going a whole season without some kind of controversial incident that will lead to a suspension. If they want to sell him, they will find that his price tag will plummet as it seems unlikely that many teams will want a player who is suspended until November.