It’s an odd phenomenon, the fading legend.
We know all players eventually succumb to time but certain individuals, the top 0.1%, appear to have vaguely magical qualities.
And so we abandon logic and convince ourselves their talent will make them immune to decay — a desperate coping mechanism.
When this proves to be untrue, as it always does, it can be heartbreaking.
The decline of Luis Suarez has been inconsistent.
In the last two years, he has frequently followed unconvincing periods with red-hot spells reminiscent of the prime 2013 – 2017 version of himself.
He may do the same again soon and relegate his current struggles from critical state to mere blip.
But eventually, one blip will prove fatal.
Legends of the game decline differently to the rest of football’s cast — and make no mistake, Suarez is absolutely a legend.
Watching an elite player shift out of top gear is exaggerated.
Perhaps it’s because the gap from the world’s very best to the second tier is the most dramatic.
We romanticise the likes of Suarez because of their history, it his their reward for their accomplishments.
When the spell is broken and they are rendered mortal, it feels almost like a betrayal.
Suarez’s wasteful finishing in recent weeks and his poor decision-making in Lyon have led to a torrent of criticism on Barcelona Twitter.
And the analytical criticism is justified.
Years as the world’s outright best No9 do not make him immune to judgement now, especially when the pressure of Champions League knockout games is in play.
Yet there is a nagging guilt attached to such an act, because Suarez was so incredibly good for so long.
This contradiction is what makes declining legends so tragic.
It’s difficult for many fans to accept a player they have adored and believed in for so long is no longer suited to the club they love.
It’s all relative of course.
Only Lionel Messi has scored more La Liga goals than Suarez this season — if you hadn’t watched Barcelona’s games, there’d be no indication he was in severe decline.
Barca’s prolific No9 is measured by the immense standards he has set for himself, such is the nature of football at the highest level.
Take Wayne Rooney as another example.
Man United and England’s all-time top scorer diminished rapidly under intense scrutiny.
Where before he was a fireball of outrageous talent, suddenly he appeared a sluggish hindrance.
And United did not have Barca’s luxury of a comfortable lead in the league at the time.
Rooney was the target of relentless criticism and it wasn’t until he returned to Everton that United’s fan base collectively expressed an appropriate outpouring of gratitude for his services.
You can bet Suarez will receive something similar from the Nou Camp faithful and beyond when he steps aside.
For the time being though, his situation is frustrating, confusing and a little bit painful.
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