Patrice Evra has voted for Luis Suarez as his PFA Player of the Year, despite being racially abused by the Liverpool striker in October 2011.
Following a 1-1 Premier League match at Anfield during the 2011-12 season, the Manchester United defender gave an interview to Canal+ in which he claimed the Uruguayan had racially abused him. This led to an official Football Association investigation, which resulted in the striker being fined £40,000 and suspended for eight games.
Although Suarez always maintained his innocence, and continues to do so, the FA released the contents of their findings on 31 December 2011, in which it stated that the former Ajax player had “damaged the image of English football around the world”, whilst also confirming he used the word “negro” and that should he be found guilty of two similar offences in the future, he could be suspended on a permanent basis.
As is often the case with football, fate took a coincidental twist when Suarez completed his ban to make his first start at Old Trafford. Evra, though, extended his hand during the pre-match rituals, only to then react angrily when the Uruguayan refused to accept. This caused embarrassment to then-Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish, who had shown unwavering support to his player, whilst Sir Alex Ferguson called the forward a “disgrace to Liverpool.”
Suarez later issued an apology for not shaking Evra’s hand, and this was followed by a club statement which was accepted by United. Since then, whenever the two North West giants have met, the two players have shaken hands when involved, but the Frenchman celebrated his side’s title win last season when he picked up a plastic arm thrown onto the pitch by a fan, and bit into it to mimic his nemesis biting the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
However, there can be no denying that speaking entirely about his football ability, Suarez has been outstanding of late. His 29 goals in as many games look set to fire Liverpool to a first league title since 1990, so it was no surprise when he was shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year award. What may come as more of a surprise, though, is that Evra has set aside his differences with the 27-year-old to place his vote towards the Uruguayan.
The Sunday Mirror quote a ‘dressing-room insider’ at United as saying: “Luis Suarez is an outstanding footballer, but no-one at United could believe it when Patrice Evra voted for him. It shows the measure of the man that he didn’t allow what happened between them to cloud his judgement. He clearly doesn’t bear a grudge.”