Get ready for a media storm.
Barcelona's Luis Suarez is set to face two players entwined in incidents that brought the Uruguayan striker much of his (admittedly deserved) infamy when he plays the Champions League Final against Juventus.
In last summer's World Cup, Suarez bit Giorgi Chiellini in a match between Uruguay and Italy. Suarez initially denied doing so purposefully, using the flimsy excuse of falling onto Chiellini with his mouth open, but eventually confessed he did it on purpose
Chiellini, to his credit, graciously accepted Suarez's apology for the third (!) bite of the Uruguayan's career. He said he would mark Suarez as if it were any other elite forward for the final, and that he would even hug him.
And in 2011, Suarez, then playing for Liverpool, racially abused Patrice Evra, then a Manchester United player. At least, that's what an FA investigation concluded - Suarez denies the charge to this day.
The row continued with Suarez refusing to shake Evra's hand during another match. Recently Suarez said he apologizes for all biting incidents, which he says he takes responsibility for, but not the racism incident.
"The others were actions when it was me who did wrong. I accepted that and begged forgiveness, but the racism thing, when I was accused without evidence, that did upset me."
Evra was understated about the upcoming final, saying he would shake Suarez's hand. It would be a stretch to say Evra forgives Suarez, but perhaps it's fair to say he is open to the idea of doing so eventually.
Exploring Suarez's psyche makes for an attractive topic, fascinating even, though it is ultimately an exercise in guess work. If you want to read probably the best exploration of that subject, read this ESPN article from Wright Thompson. It's long, but eye-opening. I'll wait.
if you can't read all that I'll summarize: Suarez grew up in an unimaginably tough neighborhood in which his life was indeed threatened. Football was his way out and his way of reuniting with the love of his life, who had moved from Uruguay to Barcelona.
All of his bad behavior is a failure to move on from the time when competitors trying to bring him down on the football pitch were in some way trying to keep him in poor financial conditions and away from his true love.
Suarez admitted to breaking down in tears of joy after getting the call that Barcelona were signing him this past summer.
"I felt so happy with the judgement call Barcelona made about me. I was scared that they’d pull out of signing me, because of the repercussions of the bite incident; I knew that could happen."
That love of his life is now his wife, and they have two children together. And Barcelona, the place where her family is from and the place she has lived in for years, was always his preferred destination.
When Barcelona signed the mercurial striker, many wondered how such a divisive figure - one of the villains of football to a vast many - could fit into the Catalan team's self-professed image of being "more than a club."
One answer was, it did not, but this is a business and winning comes first. It's irreconcilable, but that's the way it is.
The other point of view, which I argued back before the transfer took place, was that even the worst people - and Suarez, for what it's worth, is not pure evil - deserve a chance for redemption. And a move to Barcelona, while obviously a huge benefit for sporting reasons, could actually prove a turning point in this man's life towards becoming a more respectful person.
Suarez has not truly achieved that moment in which he is forgiven by everyone, or even the majority of people. Refusing to apologize to Evra is a major stumbling block for that.
He may never truly reach that point of total forgiveness, of course, but can he come closer to it?
Being fair to him, however, he's settled in well at Barcelona, and not just from a sporting perspective.
On the pitch, aside from the odd cheeky foul or relatively minor incident of playacting - nothing beyond an ordinary amount for any player anywhere - Suarez has been more or less a model citizen. In the dressing room he is popular with his teammates, as he always tends to be.
If you accept the premise that Suarez's reactions are in some way tied to a quest to be with his love, that quest should now be fulfilled as he lives with her in Barcelona as he dreamed. That should lead to a more composed Suarez.
He's said he is receiving psychological help and is finding strategies to be able to calm himself, remain intense but be able to stop himself from going overboard.
The final, which will he play against two players he wronged, provides a very fitting backdrop to finish the year of personal and professional progress - if he can seize the moment. His sniping towards Evra even as recently as last fall has shown the striker is still, of course, not a completely changed man.
Suarez may never admit to intentionally spouting racist language, but he could at least bury the hatchet with Evra and recognize how poorly he handled the aftermath. Maybe, at least, shift the blame he laid on Evra towards himself more.
Maybe even think that the way he expressed himself, while not racist in intent in his mind, was racist in effect. And that he should have taken this as a sign to change his tone, not as a sign that he should become more accusatory and nasty.
The easy path to "redemption" is to just win the trophy, but it would be hollow if it did not present true progress on a personal level.
Despite this being a final, his rehabilitation is a continuing process. And perhaps one that could only be set in motion in Barcelona. More than a club?