Liverpool fans have invested so much in Suarez they are reluctant to change now
Adulation of controversial Uruquayan will only end if and when he does an Arsenal shirt
Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard believes the club’s season depends on keeping hold of Luis Suarez. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
On Saturday at Anfield, Steven Gerrard’s 15 years with Liverpool were honoured with a testimonial against Olympiakos, the team against whom he scored one of his most famous goals.
The match was a tribute to the man who has done more to thrill Liverpool supporters than anyone since the years when they used to win league titles.
“No player deserves more respect around the world from true football fans,” was the verdict of another legend, Paul McGrath.
Football will remember Gerrard as a dynamic athlete who could score spectacular goals when it mattered most. But Liverpool supporters will also remember him as a romantic who bound himself to a doomed cause. All Gerrard’s accomplishments for Liverpool are cast in a more saintly light by the knowledge that he could have won many more trophies playing somewhere else.
Everyone knows that Gerrard wavered along the way – he nearly joined Chelsea in 2004 and again in 2005. In hindsight those Gethsemane moments make his dedication to Liverpool more poignant. He was painfully aware that staying meant giving up his best chance of winning a league title, and yet he stayed.
It was that self-sacrificing loyalty that Saturday’s crowd had gathered to celebrate.
Given the theme of the occasion, it was fascinating to see what happened in the 62nd minute when Luis Suarez rose from the bench and approached the pitch in readiness to replace Iago Aspas.
Here stood the man who has spent the last two months telling the world he wants to leave for a bigger club, and the cheers from the Anfield crowd could not have been louder had they been for Gerrard himself.
Suarez looked uncomfortable, his eyes darting about nervously under a furrowed brow as waves of adulation rolled off the slopes around him.
Suarez has scored a lot of great goals for Liverpool but he has also brought enormous embarrassment upon them. He finished last season by getting himself banned for 10 games, and then he crowns it all by announcing he wants to leave.
Why, then, did the crowd at Anfield choose to repay disrespect with devotion? The answer might lie in the fact that they have already had to go to such extremes to defend him.
The American founding father, Benjamin Franklin, noted in his autobiography that the psychology of favours did not work as most people thought it did. You might intuitively expect that the way to win someone’s favour would be to do favours for them. Franklin saw it working the other way around.
Early in his political career, Franklin wondered how to win over an influential member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly who appeared to dislike him. “I did not, however, aim at gaining his favour by paying any servile respect to him,” wrote Franklin. Instead, he asked his rival to lend him a rare book from his personal collection.