For anyone living in Luis Suárez's mind, the 2013-2014 Premier League season might have been described with one word: vindicated. After biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April 2013, the forward issued an apology, and quietly served his ten-game suspension. Suárez, then went on to score 31 goals in 31 Premier League games for Liverpool, helping his club mount a title challenge that lasted until the final match of the season.
As a result of his blistering performances for the Reds, he was showered with accolades. The Football Supporters' Federation, the Football Writers' Association, and the Barclays' Premier League all named him as their player of the year. Even the players themselves got in on the act, and Suárez received the Professional Footballers' Association Players' Player of the Year award.
His redemption was, supposedly, complete. Mistakes made in the past -- the biting of Otman Bakkal, racially abusing Patrice Evra, sinking his teeth into Ivanovic -- had been atoned for through sheer weight of goals.
Yet while the press, and a large chunk of fans, even beyond the Anfield faithful, talked of said redemption, in truth no such thing had occurred. Redemption, by definition, requires making amends for a fault or a mistake. Suárez, on the other hand, sought vindication: the desire to be absolved for a crime of which he was not guilty.
A subtle difference, yet a significant one. Suárez believes himself not to be at fault for the incidents that have plagued his career. He believes he's the victim of a smear campaign, a witch hunt, that he's been demonized by the media. He is not guilty, he is not in the wrong. Therefore, his performances do not make amends for his behavior, but rather absolve him of ...
Let's take a look at what Suárez has said after select incidents:
‘No, I do not regret what happened. Normally I always keep calm but I didn't ... I'm a little tired. This week I had to travel a lot,' stated the striker, after his chomp on Bakkal.
"There were two parts of the discussion, one in Spanish, one in English. I did not insult him. It was just a way of expressing myself. I called him something his team-mates at Manchester call him, and even they were surprised by his reaction," said Suárez, in response to claims that he'd called Evra a "negro" multiple times during Liverpool's match with Manchester United in October 2011.
"Luis Suárez has accepted a charge of violent conduct, following an incident with Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in Sunday's fixture at Anfield. However, Suárez has denied the FA's claim that the standard punishment of three matches is clearly insufficient for this offence." read an FA statement regarding the forward's appeal for leniency.
"These situations happen on the field. I had contact with his shoulder, nothing more, things like that happen all the time," remarked Suárez, after he appeared to have bitten Giorgio Chiellini.
Suárez has shown himself capable of apologizing when his actions affect his ability to play football. He has apologized for both biting incidents, although he rather undermined his apology to Ivanovic by insisting he should receive no additional punishment. He was also willing to apologize to his Liverpool teammates for the drama he created last summer, when he sought a move to Arsenal.
But Suárez has never truly shown remorse for the storms he has created. In fact, after Uruguay beat England 2-1, with both goals coming from the Liverpool man, he talked about how he'd dreamed of exactly that moment, describing how people in England had laughed at his "attitude" over the past few years, and wondering just what they thought of him now.
Suárez wasn't seeking redemption. Vindication, though? Absolutely.
For Uruguay, Suárez has never needed such vindication. Four years ago, the forward made himself a hero when, in the last minute of Uruguay's World Cup quarter-final against Ghana, he reached out his hand to stop a shot from Dominic Adiyiah from flying into the back of the net. Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting spot-kick, and Uruguay went on to advance after winning the penalty shootout.
Some might call it cheating. In fact, some are still incensed over the fact that Suárez has never apologized for this particular crime. But he, and Uruguay, were duly punished as the laws of the game require: Suárez was suspended, and Ghana were given the chance to score through a penalty kick. It was, as has been pointed out many a time, exactly what almost any player in that situation would do.
So Suárez's return for Uruguay, and his subsequent dismantling of England, neither redeemed nor vindicated the man in the eyes of supporters. Yet his actions on Tuesday will almost certainly require more than a rote apology. This time, Suárez may have well and truly sunk his country.
In 2010, Uruguay boasted a strong squad. With an average age of 26, they had players plying their trade in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Netherlands. The undisputed star was Diego Forlán, who'd just scored 28 goals for Atlético Madrid. But they also had strong defenders in Diegos Lugano and Godín, and SOMETHING. Uruguay finished fourth, topping their group before beating South Korea and Ghana, only to lose to Netherlands in the semi-finals (Suárez was suspended).
Yet not much has changed for Uruguay since South Africa. Óscar Tabárez remains in charge and, apparently seeing nothing broken in la celeste, opted to bring fifteen of the same players to Brazil. Nothing was fixed, from the uninspiring midfield to the creaking of Lugano's knees. Uruguay had but one game plan: pump balls to Suárez up front, and maybe if that doesn't work out, Edinson Cavani can find enough form to stick one in.
That game plan failed against Costa Rica, a match which Suárez was unable to start. And it's highly unlikely that it will work against Colombia, who are comfortable sitting deep, then tearing apart their opponents on the break. Suárez, despite what you might think of him as a human being, is a fantastically talented footballer, capable of single-handedly lifting Uruguay far beyond their usual drab play.
But Suárez is unlikely to see the next round of the World Cup. FIFA have opened disciplinary proceedings into his alleged bite on Chiellini. If he's found to have sampled flesh yet again, he'll miss a minimum of two matches, which will almost certainly see his side dumped out of the World Cup. But punishment is unlikely to be that light. His first bite saw Suárez punished to the tune of seven matches, while the second earned him a ten-game suspension.
We're now on the third strike, and while there's no precedent when it comes to biting (except that which Suárez has created himself, of course) long-term suspensions have certainly occurred. Perhaps Eric Cantona's nine-month ban for his karate kick at Crystal Palace is the closest comparison (though that was on a fan rather than a fellow competitor), although there's also the case of Roberto Rojas deliberately injuring himself in an international qualify against Brazil, which saw him banned from football for life (and Chile banned for one World Cup).
Uruguay fans have defended their talisman, with many declaring that he's the victim of the media rather than of his own play. But should Suárez be found guilty, will he even be offered a chance at redemption in his country? After all, if his team crash out in the next round, and Suárez is not on the pitch, he could very well be blamed for the failures of la celeste. Unlike against Ghana in 2010, there's no plausible suggestion that Suárez was merely doing what it takes to win this time.
Suárez, meanwhile, is likely to look upon this latest incident as yet another count of the footballing world conspiring against him. He'll make no apology. He's not at fault. And he'll show the those biased, cretinous members of the media that they're persecuting him unfairly by scoring as many goals as possible.
Because to Luis Suárez, that is how the world works.