By Sam Mathius
The gap in talent between a Liverpool first team member and an average fan, like myself, is wide. It’s incredibly massive, to be honest. The gap between the club’s regular starters and bench players is much less significant. These are two truths that are fairly obvious. However, these are two truths that play an important role in just how much of a star a player will be. A young Luis Suarez surely made minced-meat of Uruguayan youths just as David N’Gog did with to Parisian ones.
Both would have wowed me just as they surely did to countless scouts when they were teenagers. Had they played on any of the youth teams I ever played on, they would have scored bags of goals. They’d have been earmarked for having bright professional careers in the future. But once they make that jump from amateur to professional, the game changes. Suddenly, the game is quicker, the players more skilled, time of the essence while on the ball. Some players thrive, some players simply do not. With all due respect to David N’Gog who was a fine professional for Liverpool Football Club, he’s no Luis Suarez.
Even with the pedigree, there’s an odd anomaly that applies to Luis Suarez. Arguably, there are other, less talented players more revered, or at least equally as revered, by The Kop. Gary McAllister, Luis Garcia, and the working class hero, Dirk Kuyt are examples. Each, in their own way left behind something that Luis Suarez has yet to: remarkable moments. McAllister had the 2001 UEFA Cup Final performance and the Everton goal, Garcia had that goal against Chelsea (also a stunner against Juventus as well), and Dirk Kuyt had the spot kick the send us to Athens and the second goal in last year’s League Cup Final.
Apart from his superb performance against Manchester United in his first months at the club, Luis Suarez has had few moments of real brilliance. He’s scored very few goals against top-tier teams in top-tier moments. Surely having Steven Gerrard has spoiled me in terms of the dramatic strike but it’s true: Luis Suarez has failed more often than not in big games. Not for lack of effort but perhaps for a lack of clinical finishing or not choosing the best option. He’s been frustrating at times. That’s why in the wake 3-1 result at Anfield over Zenit was the happiest I’ve been after crashing out of Europe. The innate will for the big moment finally sparkled for Luis Suarez in a red kit. Two superbly taken free kicks coupled with sublime play and decent chances to boot, he looked a real force. Not just in the sense that he can score bags of goals but also in the sense that he can score the really important ones. A glimpse of his crunch time ability.
Where as Luis Garcia, Gary McAllister, and Dirk Kuyt never possessed the raw skill that Suarez does, they still made an impact. All still supremely talented, they’ve never reached that unarguable world-class level, yet they are idolized by The Kop. It’s because they took their moments. They made an impact when they really needed to.
Being a star striker can be a burden. Much is expected of you all while the opposition does its utmost to neutralize the threat. This season Luis Suarez has proven that he is indeed a star goal scorer that can handle that pressure. His 18 league goals have been amassed in astonishing fashion. Still, it’s the two goals in a bitter sweet game that displayed the truth about the player: he’s a world class talent with a penchant for being there when the lights are the brightest.
A decade ago, pinpointing which player, Luis Suarez or David N’Gog, would become the more talented striker would have been impossible. There’s no way of knowing until both lads get a chance to shine. In that same manner, pinpointing a player that can handle the pressure that comes with world-class talent is impossible. There’s no way of knowing until a lad gets a chance to shine. Luckily for Liverpool fans, Luis Suarez shined against Zenit. Although another up-and-down European campaign is in the books, the pen is finally meeting the paper in terms of Luis Suarez fairy tales.