Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Alan Green: Robin Van Persie is good... but Luis Suarez is king

Luis Suarez, despite all the criticism, has been the Premier League's most dangerous player
Luis Suarez, despite all the criticism, has been the Premier League's most dangerous player

I never quite understand the sense of voting whenever the season is only halfway through but, shortly, forms from the Professional Footballers’ Association will be distributed to decide the ‘Player of the Year’ award.

Unless things change radically in the next couple of weeks, there are but two outstanding candidates.

Robin van Persie cost £24m for Sir Alex Ferguson to wrench him from the grasp of Arsenal last summer and clearly he’s been worth every penny. Indeed, he’s been a steal at that price.

His goals — 19 in all competitions — are important of course though Manchester United’s striking resources are such you always expect them to score as many if not more than any other side.

No, it’s the quality and composure of the Dutchman’s finishing that stands out: typically, at West Ham on Saturday night. He was the top scorer last season and could well be again this time around.

However, van Persie was already an established Premiership star and moved from a very good club that wasn’t winning trophies to one that was accustomed to re-stocking the cabinet silverware each and every season.

It can’t be at all difficult for an exceptional player such as van Persie to settle in when there is such an exuberance of talent around you: as at Old Trafford. Suarez’s circumstances were and remain very different. He moved into Anfield as Fernando Torres — what a partnership they’d have been — was moving out.

His strike partner was Andy Carroll, a young powerhouse whose ability, ultimately, was still unproven. The Geordie is still trying to prove himself: at West Ham. Meantime, the Uruguayan, already establishing himself as a Liverpool favourite no matter the difficulties surrounding him, has moved on: has blossomed. Can you really think there is a more exiting player around in England at the moment than Suarez?

And he’s ‘doing it’ in a far less accomplished team than United. Yes, Steven Gerrard delivered what may already be the “Pass of the Season” for Suarez to score his second goal against Sunderland the other night but, I’m afraid, the Liverpool and England captain is not quite what he was.

Perhaps the strain of being, season after season, the main man at Anfield is starting to show? Suarez is now that man. In an inconsistent Liverpool season, he has been consistently brilliant. Gerrard’s pass was wonderful but Suarez’ instant control and finish was just as outstanding. He’s become not only a scorer of great goals but, flat out, a great goalscorer.

He’s also a team player. Brendan Rodgers knows whoever was to blame that he was left shamefully short of strikers when the transfer window closed at the end of August. Suarez was left to shoulder the burden on his own. Now Daniel Sturridge has come in. He plays centrally so Suarez’ role will change. Is anyone in doubt he’ll be just as good, playing off Sturridge’s shoulder, or cutting in from wide as he did at Ajax?

I don’t have a vote but I wish I did. I’d set aside the ‘racist’ thing: Suarez was wrong though it was as much a mistaken cultural upbringing as a deliberate taunt at Evra. And the Uruguayan is no more a diver than Bale, Rooney or the rest.

At the moment, he’s simply the best though he suffers discrimination. Would an English player be so berated for a possible handball (at Mansfield)?

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