Luis Suarez is perhaps the greatest No9 of his generation.
He’s also one of the biggest sh*thouses in football history.
Both these statements were equally true before Barcelona and Liverpool played out their Champions League drama over two contrasting acts.
Three weeks ago, the majority of Liverpool fans still had affection for Suarez; the Anfield faithful may have even planned to give him a warm welcome.
But last night, upon the Uruguayan’s return to Merseyside, several choruses of ‘F*CK OFF, SUAREZ! F*CK OFF, SUAREZ!’ left little room for ambiguity.
The undoubted villain of the piece, he was vilified for playing in the exact same way he has for years.
The Liverpool fans didn’t actually expect him to act differently, did they?
No fan base is more familiar with Suarez’s abrasive dark arts; while under contract at Anfield he sunk his teeth into two opponents (completing a career hat-trick), racially abused Patrice Evra, kicked out at half the league’s defenders, squared up to all of them, dived, lied and cheated.
And the fans loved him regardless, because he was totally committed to the cause, and he was bloody good.
The hostile treatment at Anfield was evidence of football’s obvious hypocrisy — when they play for your team, almost anything is excusable.
And this is fine (for the most part) if you admit it to yourself.
But many prefer to think they are morally above such blatant tribalism, posing as sincere and principled commentators.
Remember how many middle-aged Merseysiders became experts in South American colloquialism and social norms during the Suarez/Evra feud?
Many positioned themselves are arbitrators of integrity and refused to admit they were simply backing a footballer who played for their team.
Lessons in morality fall short when they hinge on relatively trivial motivation.
When a player dives against your team to win a penalty, it’s all outrage and disgust.
When your favourite player dives to win a penalty, it’s whataboutery, revenge for a previous injustice.
The person behind this account has retrospectively changed his opinion on an incident of racism based on the offender’s competitiveness in a sporting environment eight years later.
If you genuinely alter your views on such matters based on how many fouls your left-back suffers, then you risk having zero credibility in future conversations.
This is not exclusive to Liverpool fans by any means, all fan bases are guilty of dressing up their natural bias with faux transcendent philosophies.
Suarez just provided a perfect example of it in action.
Here was a man with habit of eating humans who was only condemned by Liverpool fans when they were on the receiving end of his infuriating antics.
Where before they charitably called him a ‘street footballer’, now he is just a ‘dickhead’.
We’re all guilty of this to some extent.
But a bit of self-awareness is all that’s required to prevent it going too far.