LIVERPOOL and Uruguay forward Luis Suarez last night paved the way for a big-money transfer to Barcelona by finally issuing an apology for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Six days after the incident that shocked the World Cup and earned him a four-month ban from all football activity, Suarez spoke of “deep regret” and promised there would be no repeat of the infamous foul. But the 27-year-old, who had claimed to have fallen face-first onto Chiellini’s shoulder, stopped short of admitting to deliberately biting his opponent during Uruguay’s 1-0 win in Brazil.
“The truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me,” Suarez said in a statement. “For this: I deeply regret what occurred; I apologise to Giorgio and the entire football family; I vow to the public that there will never again be another incident like [it].”
The statement followed suggestions that long-term admirers Barcelona would only bid for the £80m-rated star if he showed contrition for the third biting charge of his career.
It also increases the likelihood that governing body Fifa may consider reducing his World Cup record ban, which also includes nine competitive Uruguay games, on appeal.
Chiellini responded via Twitter, writing: “It’s all forgotten. I hope Fifa will reduce your suspension.”
Uruguay team-mates and officials had staunchly defended Suarez since the incident, insisting the bite was a fabrication, and the country’s president Jose Mujica had joined the clamour earlier yesterday, railing at what he called a “fascist ban” from “a bunch of sons of bitches”.
The South American side were knocked out of the tournament by Colombia at the last-16 stage on Saturday.
Liverpool have repeatedly stood by Suarez despite two serious and lengthy domestic bans for using racial language towards Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and later biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
There is a growing sense, however, that the Reds may be ready to sell, with Barca favourites to bid for last year’s Premier League top scorer.