Luis Suarez: What next for troubled Liverpool striker?

By Phil McNultyChief football writer
Watch: Fifa spokesperson Delia Fischer announces Suarez's punishment

The shockwaves will have been felt from the Maracana in Rio, to Melwood back in Liverpool, as Luis Suarez received a four-month ban from all football-related activity and was suspended for Uruguay's next nine matches.

Uruguay's talisman has been removed from their World Cup reckoning for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini and Liverpool will be without arguably the Premier League's finest player until November.

Fifa needed to act swiftly and decisively and has done so on an unprecedented scale at a World Cup.

This punishment outstrips the eight-game suspension given to Italy's Mauro Tassotti for breaking Luis Enrique's nose with an elbow against Spain in the 1994 finals.

It is three bites and out for the 27-year-old, who is a world-class player but a character out of control. It is clear that when club and country draw the line it is only a matter of time before Suarez steps over it.

This World Cup here in Brazil has been a celebration of glorious attacking football and open games across this vast, football-mad country.

Suarez entered into the spirit with a magnificent performance and two goals in Uruguay's decisive win against England - only to leave the party in shame for his assault on Chiellini.

Luis Suarez controversies
June 2014Banned for four months from any football-related activity, plus nine international matches, for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini
April 2013Apologises for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic and receives a 10-game ban
Dec 2011Given eight-match suspension and fined £40,000 for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra
Nov 2010Given seven-match ban for biting PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal on the shoulder while playing for Ajax
July 2010Handles on the line to deny Ghana a winner in the last minute of extra-time in the World Cup quarter-finals. Asamoah Gyan misses the resulting penalty and Uruguay win the shootout to reach the semi-finals

In taking Suarez out of the World Cup, Fifa has wiped away the biggest stain on events here in Brazil. Uruguay - in a state of lockdown and denial that did them a disservice - are instantly in reduced circumstances ahead of their meeting with Colombia at the Maracana on Saturday.

For all their complaints of an anti-Suarez agenda driven by the British media - remember, this is the Football Writers' Association footballer of the year - the Uruguayans' only complaint should be directed at the man who has effectively become a pariah at this World Cup.

We marvelled at the skills of Suarez against England and with Liverpool in the Premier League last season, but he could not escape a stiff sanction for his latest outrage.

The fact it was done in front of a global audience and was headline news in the United States, as well as on every sports and news programme in Brazil, only emphasises the damage he has done to his, Uruguay's and the game's reputation.

Liverpool will understandably feel aggrieved, not just because of the support they gave Suarez after a similar attack on Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield in April last year, but also because this did not happen on their watch.

Luis Suarez tangles with Branislav Ivanovic
Liverpool supported Suarez after he was banned for 10 games for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic

Owner John W Henry and manager Brendan Rodgers will have reacted with despair to Suarez's bite, and to the level of punishment inflicted upon him and them.

All the time and patience they put in with Suarez last season, especially when he attempted to use the Ivanovic bite as a lever to get out of Anfield, has been squandered in yet another moment of madness.

Unless he moves elsewhere, Suarez will miss the first nine Premier League games of Liverpool's season (assuming the four-month period runs from 26 June-26 October), the first three games of their return to the Champions League and one Capital One Cup game.

Liverpool matches Suarez will miss
(Premier League unless stated)
16 AugustLiverpool v Southampton
23 AugustMan City v Liverpool
30 AugustTottenham v Liverpool
13 SeptemberLiverpool v Aston Villa
16/17 SeptemberChampions League group match
20 SeptemberWest Ham v Liverpool
23/24 SeptemberCapital One Cup third round match
27 SeptemberLiverpool v Everton
30 September/1 OctoberChampions League group match
4 OctoberLiverpool v West Brom
18 OctoberQPR v Liverpool
21/22 OctoberChampions League group match
25 OctoberLiverpool v Hull
Assuming four-month period runs 26 Jun-26 Oct

Liverpool have been forced to deal with a serial offender since he joined from Ajax in a £22.7m deal on 31 January 2011.

He was banned for eight matches after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra in October 2011, and subsequently received a 10-game suspension for biting Ivanovic.

The club released a holding statement - they probably have them ready to cut and paste for Suarez these days - but it remains to be seen whether this is the final straw for a player who has dragged the good name of Liverpool through the mud on a regular basis.

Liverpool's fans, and to an extent the club, seem prepared to forgive all of Suarez's misdemeanours in exchange for his brilliance on the pitch.

They even forgave him his ham-fisted attempts to force a move to Arsenal last summer as he returned in triumph to score 31 league goals and almost take them to their first title in 24 years.

Luis Suarez
Suarez scored 31 Premier League goals last season despite not being able to play until 25 September because of his ban for biting Ivanovic

However, the Liverpool 'brand' will now undoubtedly come into consideration.

Suarez's personal sponsors have already responded ominously and Liverpool's main shirt sponsors, Standard Chartered, are hardly likely to have been elated at seeing their name attached to this flawed personality once again.

Liverpool's fans may regard this as a sideshow but sponsors play an increasingly high-profile role in the life of a global football club and their views will carry weight.

The week started with Liverpool fending off renewed speculation - fuelled by relatives and close associates - linking Suarez with a summer move to either Barcelona or Real Madrid after his stellar performance against England.

It ends with them fighting a different type of fire altogether, and one that may consume them for the rest of the summer.

What will Suarez's response be?

His willingness to march across to the English media and fire off a few well-chosen words after the win against Roy Hodgson's side hinted at the rage that still burns inside him at what he regards as ill-treatment at our hands.

The spotlight is unlikely to be any less intense if he does eventually return to the Premier League.

Match of the Day pundits react to the Suarez bite

Suarez claimed this was a factor in his discontent 12 months ago - will he use it again in an attempt to get out?

And what of those potential suitors? Will Suarez shaming himself on the world stage make Barcelona and Real row back from a move?

Or will his brilliant ability, which has rightly lifted him into the elite bracket occupied by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, make those La Liga clubs overlook his behaviour and adopt a more pragmatic approach?

Staff at Anfield talk of a humble, devoted family man who could not adopt a more professional approach to his career and lifestyle. He is extremely popular with everyone at the club. Sadly, he appears to be transformed once he enters a football pitch.

Suarez's tough upbringing on the streets of Salto in Uruguay is often cited as a reason for his intensity and willingness to play on the edge. But plenty of footballers around the world emerged from similar surroundings and do not display a regular desire to bite opponents.

There has been talk of Suarez now seeking professional help to cure the tendencies he displayed once again against Italy.

All well and good, but we should also spare a thought for the Uruguayan's victims: Otman Bakkal, the PSV Eindhoven player who was bitten by the then Ajax player in 2010, Ivanovic and Chiellini.

The greatest pain Suarez will feel is that he is now deprived of the place he loves best - the field of play.

He may feel hard done by but the reality is football - in this instance the game's ruling body, Fifa - had to take a stand against a man who continues to breach the rules in an almost animalistic fashion. He will now have to serve a punishment that fits the crime.

The World Cup will miss Suarez's talent, but Brazil will not miss his inability to control urges that have proved to be a blight on the game for clubs and country.

Luis Suarez appears to bite Giorgio Chiellini
It has been suggested that Suarez will now seek professional help
Giorgio Chiellini of Italy displays his shoulder after the bite by Luis Suarez
Chiellini displayed what appeared to be bite marks on his shoulder after the incident
Italy's Giorgio Chiellini and Luis Suarez
Suarez escaped punishment at the time of the incident, just as he did after biting Bakkal and Ivanovic

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