Time for Suarez to be judged by his football – not his past.

It’s no surprise that Luis Suarez has been named the 2013/14 PFA Player of the Year. The Liverpool striker has both scored and created more goals than anyone else in the Premier League this season – despite not starting the season until the middle of September due to a suspension.

For most of the season, it’s safe to say that Suarez has not only stood out as an obvious contender for the award, but has performed at such a high standard that there simply hasn’t been another footballer in the English league who would pose a genuine threat to the Uruguayan collecting the honour.

However, despite the goals, the assists and the huge influence of a positive nature that Suarez has had on Liverpool’s title-chasing season, there have still been many voices of doubt that he deserves to be voted as the best in the league – concerns that have been voiced since the shortlist of players up for contention was announced on Good Friday.

Most objections centre around Suarez’s behaviour – in particular his tendency to go to ground easily – and for this reason alone, there has been some opposition to the prospect of Suarez being recognized as this season’s standout player in the Premier League.

It doesn’t take a long memory to recall that Suarez’s claim for being named as last year’s winner was almost as strong and only a superb post-Christmas run of form by Gareth Bale offered any realistic alternative candidate.

Bale’s chances of success were further strengthened following the controversial biting incident involving Suarez and Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. After all, it would be a bad advert for the Premier League to award the PFA award to a player with an ever-increasing record of such serious indiscipline.

Not surprisingly, Suarez has been much better behaved on the pitch this season. It’s hardly a surprise considering the likely sanctions that would follow any repeat of the type of behaviour that he has been punished for during his time in England so far.

But one thing continues to stop many rival fans from accepting him as a worthy Footballer of the Year: the diving.

On the face of things, it’s a reasonable request that our country’s footballing heroes should also take seriously their responsibility as role models, and not engage in anything deemed contrary to fair play. But that view is not only naive but, based on previous winners, extremely hypocritical.

It’s a naive view because even the footballers who have earned the most respect, not only within the footballing world but also the wider general public, are not perfectly behaved all of the time. Players like Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham have often crossed the line of fair play, whether by diving to gain from penalties, or lashing out and succumbing to moments of petulance.

The three aforementioned footballers are held up as national heroes, and the positive qualities of each of those men are, quite rightly in most cases, portrayed as characteristics that youngsters should look to follow.

However, football fans who have closely followed the careers of any of those players would be able to point back to a host of unsavoury or unsporting incidents that each have been involved in, yet those incidents will rarely be used to blacken the overall character of any of the respective players beyond any short-lived back page headlines.

The same is true of last year’s winner, Gareth Bale. While Suarez was being pulled up on every misdemeanor, and even criticized over incidents where he wasn’t even particularly guilty of doing wrong (the handball against Mansfield Town in last season’s FA Cup tie, for example), Bale was championed as a mild-mannered and honest superstar, worthy of any accolade coming his way.

For anyone holding onto that view of the man who cost Real Madrid £85m last summer, it wouldn’t take long at all to discover a long list of controversies that Bale has been the subject of.

During his award-winning season last year, Bale accumulated a record of four bookings for diving, which cemented his place at the top of the list of players with the most cautions for simulation.

And with barely six months having passed since he made his debut in Spain, there has already been more than one incident following a similar theme, in particular an incident during Real Madrid’s league win over Sevilla in October which involved a comical attempt by Bale to win a penalty that was waved away by the referee. Even in a league that is more accepting of such on-the-pitch antics, there was widespread criticism of the Welshman.

Almost a year ago, Suarez picked the worst time to make known his complaints over what he perceived to be the victimization of him by the British media. Having just accepted a lengthy ban for biting an opposing player, there was never going to be any other reaction than complete condemnation.

But if other footballers are going to be judged only on their sporting abilities, with a blind eye turned to some of their supposedly more mild misdemeanors, then Suarez, too, deserves to be judged purely on his footballing contribution to Liverpool’s season.

On that basis, the outcome was never in doubt and for Liverpool’s number seven, as it did for Bale last season, the Football Writers Award will surely follow once the season is over.

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