LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 05: Luis Suarez of Liverpool applauds the fans after the FA Cup with Budweiser Final match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 5, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Or at least Sid Lowe's done a half-decent job of casting him in a light that's not tinted to a menacing shade by an intern shaking a half-full bottle of red wine in front of the spotlight while cranking the smoke machine to eleven.
Either way, there's a wide-ranging interview on the Guardian that the Uruguayan did with Lowe, who's mostly known for his work covering La Liga but made the trip to Merseyside to meet with Suarez this past week. It's surprising in that it seems to come from a neutral perspective, even verging on positive, and it approaches somewhat familiar topics without the conclusions already drawn. There's obviously more to footballers than what we get in the Guardian or the Telegraph or the Times—or god forbid, a news outlet outside of England—and for what seems like the first time since he's been at Liverpool (at least in a capacity that isn't a puff piece from the offal), we get a more well-rounded look at Luis Suarez. Not convicted racist Luis Suarez, or Luis Suarez the diver, or a practitioner of the dark arts. Something closer to the whole thing.
"If you had seen me before …" he says. There is a pause. He leans forward a little, elbows on the table, the sleeves of his training top pulled up high. His fingers move slowly as he talks, twisting the thin wedding ring on his right hand. "If you had seen me before," he continues, "you'd realise that I used to be even worse."
Luis Suárez is not laughing. This is not a joke. Nor is it a plea for sympathy. And he is not fishing for compliments. It is just a statement, delivered evenly, like the majority of what he says. He talks well; occasionally with eloquence and always with a self-awareness that is striking, even a little disarming. He says he wants to change, but doesn't want to entirely.
Suarez paints a painfully self-aware figure, one that's committed to the point of flaw, and also one who finally seems to grasped the idea that moving on from the trials of the past season—both literal and figurative—can be of benefit to him if he's going to survive life in England. That's always a point of contention; moving on has always struck me as a stupid phrase in the mould of it is what it is. It doesn't really mean anything but it's an easy enough way to make it sound like we're being active about a problem when we mostly just don't want to have to talk about things that make us feel uncomfortable. That's not so much on Suarez as it is everyone else who's told him it's time to move on, but it's there, and at least for the time being, it resembles some sort of progress. Because, you know, it is what it is.
I don't know what this does for the general public—Luis Suarez isn't exactly a figure that inspires flexibility in opinion, and it doesn't seem as though much is going to change on that front no matter how much people get see of his life. We get the footballing side, and when the man talks about himself as "a guy who is always annoyed, always in a bad mood" on the pitch, that's probably not going to work in his favor. It's easy to dislike Luis Suarez, after all, and for the average football fan there's little reason to stop.
"They punished me, I shut up and I forget it, I want to leave it now," he says. "It's in the past. I'd prefer not to keep talking about it, otherwise it will never end."
Easier said than done. For all the talk of Olympic spirit, he was booed by opposing supporters. "What hurt me most was not that they whistled me but that they whistled the national anthem. I think that's a lack of respect. But if they whistle me on the pitch when I have the ball that doesn't worry me.
In my case, though, at no point have I ever really disliked him—and I don't think that's necessarily an easy thing to write, even for a Liverpool fan. I've cringed at things he's done, I've been ashamed of the gestures he's inspired, and I've thought at times that life for Liverpool would be easier without him and that his life might be easier without Liverpool. I'd venture most have.
But I've liked him mostly for the points Lowe touches on, and a few that I probably can't put words to, which is mostly down to the fact that it's hard to explain how you could support someone convicted of racial abuse when that's something that's sort of a no-brainer to not support. And if one were to be so daring as to suggest that he might not have done so, it's open season for accusations of naivete by those who actively support the FA when it suits their loyalties and gleefully abuse them in the next breath when it doesn't. If Suarez wants to try to move on for the new season, though, then maybe we can all at least try to, too.
Last season Suárez hit the post eight times in the league—more than any other player. Bad luck? Over-thinking? Rodgers has told him there is no excuse; he just has to score.
"In Holland I was lucky. It felt like everything went in. Now it's different. I understand that I have to score more goals than I am scoring. Maybe you try to be so precise to make sure that the keeper doesn't reach it that you end up hitting the post. Sometimes you hit it badly and it goes in. This year, maybe I'll try to hit it badly."
I'm not sure there's a point in the end other than that I'm glad Sid Lowe was given the chance to interview Luis Suarez, and that I'm fine with Suarez coming out of it looking like a flawed, annoying, slightly unlikable footballer at times. We know that much. What Lowe also exposes is that those are just parts of Suarez's makeup, and there's a lot more to him—and a lot of good things about him—that don't go hand in hand with size 84 font and exclamation points. And hopefully this season there will be a few more goals, too, no matter how they go in.