By Chris Rowland.
Following his remarkable recent exploits, and comments by various people about him – Charlie Nicholas saying he’s approaching Dalglish status, Kenny himself describing him as ‘brilliant’ – we asked our panel the question, including a guest appearance from The Bib Theorists’ Harry Hugo, in exchange for some articles by TTT writers on TBT.
Chris Rowland: The problem with evaluating a current player against past players is that unlike them, their story is not yet complete, the extent of their contribution to the club not yet fully known. Given that condition, I’d say Suarez is already passing some stellar talents and still seems to be on an upward curve. Where that might end up is anyone’s guess, and of course it could all come to an end in the January or summer 2014 transfer windows.
But to my mind he has already surpassed the contribution of the most immediate predecessors, Fernando Torres and Michael Owen, and now, in terms of his playing contribution alone, belongs alongside the likes of John Barnes, Robbie Fowler, Roger Hunt, Graeme Souness and Ian Rush. Only Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard of the modern greats still remain above him. Maybe past stars like Billy Liddell, Elisha Scott and Alex Raisbeck also belong in that exalted company.
An important caveat here is that I’m basing this solely on football contribution, which means I’m disregarding Suarez’s behavioural issues or his as yet relatively brief tenure. You’ve got be around a good few years before you can be considered for legend status. For example of that, you only have to look at Kenny’s contribution to the club in various guises, his impeccable personal standards and most of all his involvement over Hillsborough. When added to his footballing prowess, it makes him for me still the gold standard.
But solely as a player, Suarez is getting very, very close. And he is capable of scoring a type of goal and creating a kind of magic that eluded even Kenny. He is one of a kind. Not only do I not see a player like him around in today’s game, I can’t really remember ever seeing one quite like him, for us or anyone else. Unique, without quite being best-ever. Yet, anyway. But if we got two more seasons at this level?
Harry Hugo: Measuring someone against an all-time variable such as the best Liverpool player ever is something that requires deep background knowledge and a heavy understanding of every nuance of a player’s past playing career. At eighteen it’s hard to comprehend the effect Kenny Dalglish had on a team in his pomp and how much confidence Ian Rush gave with his finishing ability in the heyday having not witnessed either first hand.
What I can do though is put into perspective how good Luis Suarez is.
Fact: There aren’t many players in the world that can score four completely different goals in a single game. Free kick, stunning half-volley, forty-yard volley and a poacher’s finish inside the six yard box. Suarez’s unexpected, unprecedented variety is what makes him great and the fact you don’t know what’s to come next from him makes enthralling viewing. Norwich was the epitome of this.
To mark Luis Suarez out of ten for his recent performances is almost derisory as his enthusiasm and artistry is worth more than a biro’d number next to his name. The only pen mark that should ever be seen next to his name is one that warrants him a start in the next fixture.
Where would I rank him amongst the greats? Hard to say. He’d be up there, for sure. I think he’s surpassed Fernando Torres in the perspective of most fans and I’d argue that this is once and for all fair. To pitch him against a club figurehead in Steven Gerrard and a legend in Kenny Dalglish for the crown is something that has to be monitored carefully. One wrong move, one false appreciation and you could find yourself knocked out on the floor of a pub in the centre of Liverpool.
But the point is that there’s a colossal argument as to who the best Liverpool player ever is, be it Gerrard, Dalglish, Keegan or Barnes. All I know is that if Luis Suarez continues to mesmerise the Kop’s faithful with performances a la Norwich, the argument will be settled once and for all very soon.
Russel Lunt (Thundyr): Do the short term exploits of one player really warrant comparisons with our former great players? I would say “no”. Fernando Torres scored more goals in his first 50 appearances than any other Liverpool player, but can he really be remembered for anything else? Given that the star of Suarez has just risen I would say the same applies to him, even though he’s already named in the top 10 of players who shook the Kop.
However, were his career to continue until or beyond the end of his current contract, then I would expect him to be properly rubbing shoulders with our other famous no 7s: Dalglish, Beardsley, Callaghan and Keegan. He has that same sense of magic about him, the breathless Kop anticipating the extraordinary each time he receives the ball and somehow crafts a yard of space out of nothing. He has the talent, he has the goals, he has the staggering hat-trick record – not just the first player to hit three hat-tricks against the same club, but also the best games per hat-trick rate among ALL English top flight players ever. What is more is that Suarez seems to be improving – he’s not just irrepressible, defences seem completely unable to shut him out. With a second attacking player to take some pressure off him (first Sturridge, now Sterling) he can only be described as “revelling” in the league. When a player reaches such a level then he becomes able to carry his side to glory, just as Gerrard did before him, and his never-say-die attitude towards chasing every ball and playing every minute at 100% can infect the team with a similar, winning mentality.
Of course, Suarez has a dark side that cannot be overlooked, a balance to the sorcery he wields on the pitch. Liverpool has a history of glorious poster-boys, but Suarez’s indiscretions remind one more of those of our rivals in Manchester; he’s served a remarkable 20 matches worth of suspensions without ever being sent off for Liverpool. This will probably ensure that he never surpasses our greatest players, unless he leads us to similar numbers of English title and European Cup successes, of course.
So for me Suarez is still a step below the greats, but I am confident he can stand on their level in terms of his ability should his present vein of form continue. Loyalty is hard to come by these days, but legends are often loyal to a fault. Suarez is yet to prove he deserves recognition as a legend.
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