Oh no. Oh, Luis. Don't actually come out and say it … Oh dear. He's actually come out and said it. If ever a footballer were perfectly placed to jiggle English football's funny bone, to jab the rough edge of his spiny fingernails into English football's unscabbed confusions, it is perhaps Luis Suárez who this week has continued to do terrible, terrible, awful things that, perhaps, on closer inspection, might just turn out to be actually, you know, not that bad after all. Having admitted on Argentinian television that he did indeed dive to earn a penalty against Stoke City earlier this season, Suárez will now be disciplined by Brendan Rodgers, who had previously defended him, news that naturally seems destined to set off the klaxons, to start the volcano walls collapsing in on themselves and to generally swirl Mean Machine's rage-needle all the way up to four and a half once again.
Really though, how annoyed it is possible to be about all this? It is perhaps a confession too far, but beyond the unavoidable wretchedness of the Patrice Evra affair I have to say I don't really get the current state of trigger-ready ambient Suárez-fury. Of course, there is the basic issue of diving here, which is clearly A Bad Thing, although perhaps not the pinnacle of all badness it is often painted by those who would still see football as a test of courage, brute strength and chivalric virtues rather than simply a game of skill and tactics. Often incorrectly assumed to have "come into our game from abroad", diving – with its attendant vices: cowardice and cheating – has instead become a convenient muster point for inflamed and moralising self-assertion as English football finds itself ushered towards the status of a minor guest at its own cosmopolitan feast, reduced to harrumphing from the fringes like a mother-in-law muttering over the sprouts pan at Christmas.
But never mind all that for now. In the end it is only really Suárez the footballer that we should be concerned with. And on this score it is surely time to acknowledge that a degree of the free-floating Suárez-anguish out there has an element of forbidden passion about it.
Perhaps it is time simply to admit it out loud: incorrigible public personage he may be but it is also pretty much impossible not feel a flush of pure footballing joy while watching Suárez in the Premier League.
It is above all that fidgety, twitchy, horribly infectious demeanour. This is a man who at the age of 25 still feels able to play high stakes professional football in a style that brings to mind the kind of cartoon dog that comes haring around the corner with a string of butcher's sausages in its mouth. Unbridled and blinkers-free, Suárez is a minx, a football-ferret of perpetual improvisation and a player who would add to any team in the world if only for the reason there is no team except his team that has anything quite like him.
And of course he makes trouble: the twin-Suárezes – evil provocateur Suárez versus unbound footballing talent Suárez – are inexorably related. As has been stated often elsewhere, he is by his sporting nature a fidget and a pest, a wonderful footballer who expresses himself most effectively in a style that is the footballing equivalent of a man gleefully looting a branch of Dixons
Beyond this sense of mischief there is something else too. And at this point it is time to pause for a moment, pulse still racing from the heated contractions of forbidden Suárez‑love, and adopt a more sombre tone. To some it is probably an act of footballing heresy to suggest that Wayne Rooney – to date, a more successful player – could learn something from the Uruguayan. But Rooney could still learn something from Suárez, or at least he could perhaps feel inspired to rediscover it. It is this same quality, a sense that here is a man who genuinely enjoys doing this, who would play simply for kicks, that Rooney once had but has since concealed beneath the frazzled ginger merkin of conformity, of team play, of a burdened-by-numbers efficiency.
What has happened to Rooney anyway? For the past two years England's only top-class striker has played like a man frowning his way through an exam, where once he was a player with his own shades of what is known in Brazil as the malandro spirit. The 17-year-old Rooney did keepie-uppies in midfield during his full England debut against Turkey (this, remember, is an England player). He seemed fearless, a bollock-stamper and a hot head but also a player of high‑ceilinged and thrillingly variegated possibility. His career since his been a huge success and for Manchester United he remains an intoxicating figure at times. But it is clear that something has been lost, that he rarely surprises now, performing in the No10 role with high spec mass-produced efficiency, remarkable in the main for his sprint and enduring physicality a decade down the line.
The unexpected angles, the sudden surges have gone. Rooney has well-grooved patterns to his play. He rarely if ever attempts to play the game off the cuff. So much so that it is hard to remember the last time he scored a really memorable goal aside from the muscle-memory brilliance of that overhead kick last season, a goal that left him afterwards "worried I might never feel this way again". It is a comment that has some sadness to it, measure of the additional personal gravity under which Rooney – since Cristiano Ronaldo's departure the most important player on the pitch for both club and country – continues to perform, a factory-issue fantasista, familiar, careworn and almost disappointingly trouble-free these days.
It is this same sense of unrefined mischief that still drives Suárez. It is a quality of basic sporting release, of leaving no drop of your talent unexpressed that is often uncomfortably borne by English footballers, most recently at Euro 2012 where England took the field with the air a group of men being held hostage against their will and forced to undertake a heroically endured deprivation, like a platoon of plummy-voiced Ealing studio jungle soldiers nobly laying down enemy railway lines in some distant mosquito bog.
It doesn't have to be like this. English footballers have carried the malandro spirit in the past. The reason Paul Gascoigne's reputation outstrips his achievements among those who saw him in his pomp was the basic thrill of seeing him pick up the ball and run with it, not wildly or recklessly, but with malevolently mischievous intelligence. It is these same street-smarts that are often identified as a missing link not just in the current output of indoor-reared English footballers, but in Germany too where a generation of highly-skilled Bundesliga academy products seems at times to have lost the cold-eyed bloodymindedness of previous teams, who were laced not just with excellent players but with a prominent sub-strata of Bastards Who Know How To Win.None of which is meant to denigrate Rooney and England's poor overloaded and de-skilled young players, who frankly have enough on their plate already without being ordered to play with a song in their heart and a smile on their face (Come short! Go long! Be cheeky! Improvise! Snaffle like a playground genius!). It is simply to say that English football probably needs a bit more of Suárez rather than a bit less: a homoeopath's draught of that precious mischief that makes him currently the most watchable footballer in the Premier League – not to mention a scurrying, fidgeting, unavoidably infuriating reminder of something that has perhaps been rather lost along the way.