COMMENT: The Liga heavyweights could be having second thoughts about moving for the Uruguay striker after his apparent bite on Italy centre-back Giorgio Chiellini
By Greg Stobart in Brazil
The wheels had just started turning in the plot to get Luis Suarez out of Liverpool.
Leaks to newspapers based in Madrid and Barcelona, leading quotes from family members, an attack on the English media from the player himself.
All the signs were there of the classic methods used by the Spanish giants to prize leading Premier League stars away from their clubs.
Then Suarez appeared to sink his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder.
Another disgraceful moment to add to the rap sheet – the third time Suarez has bitten an opponent during a football match.
The repercussions will follow in the form of lengthy bans. His World Cup is almost certainly over and Suarez could well find himself banned from all football by Fifa, meaning his latest act of barbarity will directly impact his club.
The 27-year-old had been hoping that club would be Barcelona, where he could link up with Lionel Messi and Neymar, two stars of the World Cup in Brazil.
Or perhaps Real Madrid, whose president Florentino Perez is a long-term admirer and would be willing to pay the buyout clause in Suarez’s contract, believed to be set at around €87 million [£70m].
Yet his moment of madness actually increases the likelihood that Suarez will start next season at Anfield.
For big brands like Barcelona and Real Madrid – and their sponsors and kit suppliers – Suarez looks like a public relations nightmare.
For an institution that claims to be ‘more than a club’, Suarez stands against much of what Barcelona claim to represent.
Suarez is one of the best players on the planet. He showed that with his 31 Premier League goals last season and his match-winning display against England is the main reason Uruguay have reached the last 16 of the World Cup.
But for the money we are talking, he is simply not worth the hassle.
He is the man everyone loves to hate, perhaps the most despised footballer on the planet. In a multi-billion Euro corporate industry – and that’s what football is now – he does more harm than good.
So where does that leave Suarez?
Of course, there is the possibility that public pressure may be so strong that Liverpool feel forced to sell, maybe at a lower price than his buyout clause if the player himself tries to force a move.
Suarez has played the victim card enough times before when it appeared he had no argument. It’s perfectly conceivable that he could claim that life in England is unbearable and he needs a fresh start.
But through all the controversies since Suarez joined Liverpool in January 2011, the club have stuck by him.
Liverpool backed Suarez through his Patrice Evra racism saga – for which he received an eight-game ban – despite the terrible damage it did to the club.
The Anfield hierarchy condemned Suarez after the Branislav Ivanovic incident as they looked to deal with the consequences to the club’s image, but they still supported him through his 10-match ban.
In December, the Reds gave him a contract worth €249,000 [£200,000]-a-week – and Suarez subsequently fired them to a lucrative Champions League place.
It’s no stretch to say that Liverpool have so far been willing to overlook Suarez’s faults due to his supreme footballing qualities.
The sense at the club over the last 12 months has been that Suarez’s on-field behaviour has been much improved.
That all changed though with his apparent nibble in Natal, which suggests that Suarez will forever remain uncontrollable.
It could well be the conclusion drawn by executives at Barcelona and Real Madrid, too, especially if they end up bidding for a player who could face months out through suspension.
Suarez was already going to be the centre of attention this summer. The saga has now taken an almighty twist – and no-one quite knows where it is heading next.