To suggest that Luis Suárez is just the character to get his teeth into the challenge of wearing Liverpool’s No 7 shirt would perhaps inadvertently evoke painful memories of the seven-match ban handed down to the Uruguayan for biting an opponent this season.
Castigated during the World Cup last summer by many for the goal-line handball which denied Ghana a place in the semi-finals, Suarez increased his notoriety last November by earning his seven-game suspension for biting the shoulder of PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal during an Eredivisie clash with Ajax.
Seven has clearly not proven so lucky for Liverpool’s new £22.8 million forward and, with the shirt number that has become iconic at Anfield through the feats of Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish having been tarnished by recent unworthy incumbents such as Harry Kewell and Robbie Keane, Suárez might have chosen one that carries less of a historic burden.
But the 24 year-old’s reaction to the biting incident, which earned him the ‘Cannibal of Ajax’ nickname, highlighted his mental toughness and combative streak which is likely to accelerate his acclimatisation to English football.
As at the World Cup following the handball controversy, Suárez merely shrugged off the controversy and insisted he had no regrets.
Suárez is tough, single-minded and, according to Dalglish, a player who can restore the feel-good factor to Anfield with his arrival coinciding with the departure of Fernando Torres to Chelsea.
“Luis Suárez is a fantastic signing for the club.” Dalglish said. “He could have gone to other clubs, he had choices of a few places, but he wanted to come here.
“I think that’s important. It’s encouraging that there are still players out there who want to play for the club and have a feeling for the club.
“I don’t think that does him any harm either. It will benefit the self-esteem of the supporters, the owners and the players that this football club is still held in high esteem.
“That should be a great signal for everybody to drive forward and make their own history.”
Suárez, who insists he has signed for “the most famous club in England”, will add passion, desire and leadership to Liverpool according to the Ajax managing director, Rik van den Boog.
“Luis is going to bring the place alive because he is a street fighter,” Van den Boog said. “He arrived here with a decent reputation, but he was not a big player then. But in the dressing room he soon stood up and became a leader. That’s why he was special.
“Also, when he goes on his travels to South America he always rushes back. He is back on the training pitch the next morning when he has just flown around half the world for a game for Uruguay.
“But we’ll remember him for his incredible amount of goals and what he has done for the club. Our fans were crazy about him.”
His return of 13 goals in 38 games for Uruguay is outshone by his 81 in 110 appearances for Ajax and, pending the successful processing of international clearance, Suárez will make his Liverpool debut against Stoke at Anfield tonight.
Dalglish said: “We have known about him for three years. When I came back here, it was early on that we were looking at him, so when we were talking about players it was pushing at an open door regarding Suárez.
“He’ll be a fantastic player and we’re all looking forward to seeing him play. You go on YouTube and you get seven minutes of goals. That’s not a bad hit.
“He’s fantastic in the dressing room, that’s why he was captain of Ajax. For a Uruguayan, and a forward at that, to be captain of Ajax tells you something about the personality of the fella.”
How Kenny's No 7 shirt has been far from lucky
Vladimir Smicer Signed to replace Steve McManaman in 1999, Smicer took the No7 jersey and was beset by injuries and poor form. Switched to No11 and helped inspire Liverpool to Champions League success in 2005.
Harry Kewell Assumed the No 7 shirt from Smicer on arriving from Leeds in 2003, but was ravaged by injury. Low point saw him limp out of the Champions League final in 2005.
Robbie Keane Scored seven goals in 28 appearances, but lasted a mere six months before being shipped back to Spurs for £12 million – £7 million less than Liverpool had paid for him.