“All hail. Thou shalt be king hereafter!”
It was once thought that when Kenny Dalglish reluctantly hung up his boots on his final day as a player at Liverpool Football Club, that a player of his stature would never again grace the turf of Anfield. He culminated a cunning combination of vision, close control, and as seen more than 100 times for Liverpool, a devastating eye for goal. Thirteen years later a player, brought in under his second spell as manager of Liverpool FC, is proving that statement wrong.
The recent form of Luis Suárez has elevated his reputation as a great player to the most unstoppable, stunningly extraordinary striker in the world at present. “The most feared striker on the planet”, to put it into perspective. 19 goals in 12 Premier League appearances has greeted him at the beginning of his most prolific season as of yet, and still with twenty one games to play. The statistics are striking to say the least, almost Messi-esque, but it does not tell the entire story. The goals that Suárez has been scoring have been phenomenal. Nutmegs against West Brom, hat tricks, volleys against Norwich, chips against Tottenham, the list goes on and on. At a time when Liverpool are rightly competing for a top four finish in the Premier League, Luis Suárez has provided that touch of sheer class and genius that has been lacking. He scores with his left foot, right foot, headers, free kicks, volleys, from the halfway line if he feels like it. He’s every manager’s dream, he’d fit into any team in the world, he’s a defenders’ worst nightmare. He’s Luis Suárez .
Suárez’s stock could not get any higher as he now places himself firmly at the head of the Barclays Premier League top goalscorers list, and is undoubtably the league’s finest player. After putting pen to paper on a new contract that will keep him at Anfield for the foreseeable future, the Uruguayan talent looks set to be the backbone of Brendan Rodgers’ long term plans at the club in the quest to bring UEFA Champions League football back to Merseyside.
But, taking into account the bigger picture and perhaps to get a little bit ahead of ourselves, where does Luis Suárez stand in the greatest players to pull on the red shirt? Ask any fan of Liverpool and they will tell you without a hint of doubt that King Kenny is the undisputed ruler of the Red’s illustrious history. Six league titles, three European Cups, four League Cups, two FA Cups and a runner up award to Michel Platini in the Ballon d’Or of 1983 justifies this. However, although a legend in his own right that was a leading contributor in the success’ of Britain’s most successful club in world football, there is happy worry amongst onlookers that ‘el pistolero’ could overshadow the legacy of the King.
At this moment in time Liverpool sit at the top of the Barclays Premier League table. Luis Suárez averaging one and a half goals per game, every game. By the end of his career, Kenny Dalglish averaged 0.33 goals per game. That is the difference. The key difference that divides great players from the rest, consistency. The question stands however if whether or not Suarez can maintain his extraordinary displays week in week out for the remainder of the season. From the very minute he returned to the Premier League he has cast a much larger shadow than the player he was last season, and that’s saying something.
There is one major setback that may restrict him from attaining his former manager’s crown however. That of course is silverware. Kenny Dalglish accumulated a total of twenty three titles as a player from 1977 to 1990. Luis Suárez as of yet has only one to his name. This raises the timeless question that is, should a player’s ability be based upon the number of trophies in his team’s cabinet? In preference it should not, but in many ways it does. King Kenny was a part of the greatest Liverpool team in the club’s history. A team which won three European Cups. A team that won six league titles in eight seasons. Luis Suárez is a part of a team that struggles to qualify for the same competition. It is undoubted that the man himself has the ability to play for the greatest sides in Europe, no question, but is his team, to be critical, holding him back?
It is his genius that makes him stand out. He enjoys his game but he also has eyes at the back of his head. Add to that the magic in his feet. He is enjoyable to watch. It is not uncommon to find commentators laughing along with Luis as they all watch in awe at the spectacular show he puts on in the theatre they call Anfield, each week. Fans of Liverpool can’t decide whether to be shocked or stirred at what he does. Fans of rival clubs, although envious, can’t help but enjoy what he does as we all endure the thrills and relish the moments of ecstasy even just for a moment. I can’t name many players that can do that.