Brendan Rodgers was back in his native Northern Ireland on Monday, back to receive an honorary degree from the University of Ulster and back with a clear message for the waiting media.
They had gathered in big numbers at the university complex in Coleraine, not far from the hurling mad hills of Antrim that Rodgers still calls home.
The honor was bestowed on the 41-year-old in recognition of his work at Anfield last season when he turned Liverpool Football Club into genuine Premier League title contenders once again.
Ultimately they came up short in that department as Manchester City proved, again, that money can buy success.
And even Rodgers admitted, as he shared a platform and a degree with jockey Tony McCoy on Monday, that the Reds need strengthening ahead of the new campaign.
Rodgers told the local media that transfer funds are available from the club’s American owners, but he didn’t name any targets and he didn’t talk about potential departures from Merseyside in the coming weeks.
And that’s what they really gathered to hear on the footsteps of the University of Ulster as Liverpool fans await the end result of a drama that has dominated all World Cup talk in the last week.
Luis Suarez was one of the main reasons why Liverpool did well enough in England last season to earn Rodgers an honorary degree from a university back home.
Without the Uruguayan striker, who was banned at the start of the season after biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovich in the previous campaign, Liverpool wouldn’t have gone into the final two games of the season within sight of eventual winners City.
Without Suarez in the new season, they won't get anywhere near the likes of City, a rejuvenated Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal, Chelsea or Arsenal.
A clever football man, Rodgers will know that much. That’s probably why he kept his mouth shut on Suarez in Northern Ireland this week as the world reflected on the latest biting incident involving his star striker.
He simply refused to answer about all questions about Suarez and Bitegate III -- the latest drama starring his main man.
As Rodgers donned wig and gown in Coleraine, so Suarez was issuing a public apology to the Italian defender Chiellini for biting him into their World |Cup game last week. He even promised he would never do it again.
Back home in Montevideo at that stage, Suarez probably cried a tear or two for his local media as well. After all, his absence proved very costly for his teammates as they kissed the World Cup goodbye in Saturday night’s defeat to Colombia.
They did hang his shirt in the dressing room that night and they did claim he was an absent inspiration to them but, like Liverpool, Uruguay are nothing without Suarez.
That’s what makes his bite on Chiellini -- something he denied at first -- all the more pathetic. Here is a footballer prepared to put acts of lunacy before club and country.
FIFA’s decision to suspend him from all football for four months and ban him for nine international games is commendable, but is it enough? Probably not.
The only real reason Suarez suddenly decided to apologize for his stupidity on Monday was a simple one -- Barcelona will only buy him if and when he says sorry.
Having already made noises about quitting England before he bit Chiellini, Suarez clearly wants to leave Liverpool for Spain.
That’s the only reason why he is now sorry. And that’s sad.
It also explains why Rodgers imposed a media ban on the subject back home in Ulster on Monday.
For once, his actions spoke louder than words. Suarez will not be a Liverpool player next season, and for all they will miss him as a footballer, they are better off without Suarez the human being.
(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper)
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