By Andy Hunter
Brendan Rodgers has told Luis Suárez that no player is irreplaceable after the Liverpool striker disgraced himself by sinking his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic during Chelsea’s 2-2 draw at Anfield.
The Uruguay forward’s Liverpool future is in doubt after he bit the Chelsea defender’s arm as the pair tussled for possession in front of the Kop goal. The referee, Kevin Friend, missed the incident and Suárez was able to remain on the pitch to score the 97th-minute equaliser that prevented Chelsea reclaiming third place in the Premier League. He is, however, expected to be charged by the Football Association and could receive a lengthy ban.
Suárez last night issued a grovelling apology to Ivanovic. “I am deeply sorry for my inexcusable behaviour earlier today during our match against Chelsea,” he said. “I have issued an apology and have tried to contact Branislav Ivanovic to speak to him personally. I apologise also to my manager, playing colleagues and everyone at Liverpool Football Club for letting them down.” Suárez later took to Twitter to say he had spoken directly to Ivanovic. “I’ve just spoken to Ivanovic on the phone and I could apologise directly to him. Thanks for accepting,” he wrote.
Ian Ayre, the Liverpool managing director, cancelled a scheduled four-day trip to the Far East and Australia, where he was going to promote the club’s pre-season tour, to deal with the latest controversy to befall the 26-year-old. Ayre had left Anfield prior to the bite to catch a flight to the Far East but returned to the club as soon as details of the incident were relayed.
“Luis has made an unreserved apology for his actions today,” he added in a statement. “His behaviour is not befitting of any player wearing a Liverpool shirt and Luis is aware that he has let himself and everyone associated with the club down. We will deal with the matter internally and await any action from the FA.”
Rodgers would not speak directly about the incident straight after the game but, having reviewed the footage, he later admitted that the striker’s behaviour was “unacceptable and I have made him aware of this”. Asked if he would sell Suárez in the event of his leading striker being found to have compromised those values and ethics, Rodgers replied: “It’s not for me to make any rash comments or any predictions now but, like I said, this is a football club where historically players treat people with how the football club respects society, players and everyone.
“I will review it and we will review it as a club. There is certainly no one bigger than this football club, as a player or a manager. As football managers, staff and players we’re representing this great football club off the field and particularly on the field. It’s just not the time to comment realistically on it now. I’ll review it with other people at the club and we’ll talk about it after.”
The Liverpool manager eventually conceded, however, that the club would not tolerate players who brought their reputation into disrepute. Rodgers added: “It doesn’t matter who, players are always replaceable no matter how good they think they are. That is how football works. Of course there are wonderful talents here we’ve seen at this club and others over many years. If you ever lose a player that you think you cannot replace, the next one still comes along. The standards at this football club have been met for many years and that’s why it is the worldwide institution that it is. The history of this club is about respect and how people are treated. And that is something that will always be maintained here and will always be long after I am gone.”
Ivanovic was reportedly spoken to by Surrey Police when the team arrived back at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground last night after complaints made to Merseyside police were passed on to their southern colleagues, who wanted to ascertain whether the defender had sustained any injury. That was found not to be the case and Ivanovic told police he did not want to make a complaint.
Chelsea also now consider the matter closed but will co-operate with any FA investigation should it be necessary.
Rodgers has already disciplined Suárez once this season after the Liverpool striker admitted to diving in a vain attempt to win a penalty against Stoke City. The striker received a seven-match ban from the Dutch FA in 2010 for biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal while playing for Ajax and another lengthy suspension is likely to follow the Ivanovic incident from the Football Association.
“I will always speak openly and honestly about the players and protect them when I can,” said Rodgers. “With all due respect I will make an honest appraisal of it. I will always defend people if I think they are right and tell them if I think they are wrong, as I have already this season with Luis. People have to accept it when they do wrong if that’s what the case is. They have to accept the consequences accordingly. It’s disappointing that we are not talking about the football because I think the character and personality they showed in the game was fantastic.”
Rodgers also claimed a first-half elbow from Fernando Torres on Jamie Carragher, that resulted in a yellow card for the Chelsea striker, was a major controversy from the game. He said: “No one mentions Fernando Torres’s elbow on Jamie Carragher in the first half. If we are talking about incidents in the game, then I think that is an incident. Jamie is a strong honest guy and he gets elbowed in the cheekbone quite clearly.”