FORMER Saints talisman Rickie Lambert could be the main Liverpool beneficiary of Luis Suarez’s four-month FIFA ban for biting.
Suarez has been banned from all football until October, ruling him out of his club’s first 12 league and cup games of 2014/15.
The first competitive game he will miss for Liverpool will be against Saints at Anfield on the first day of the Premier League season on August 16.
Ironically, Suarez also missed his side’s 1-0 defeat against Saints on Merseyside last September as he was still serving a 10-match suspension for biting Chelsea’s Branoslav Ivanevic the previous April.
Suarez’s latest punishment – imposed by FIFA yesterday after the player was found guilty of biting Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s World Cup win against Italy on Tuesday – could well hand Lambert some early chances to impress following his shock move to Anfield last month for around £4.5m.
Lambert, 32, could now make his own competitive debut for Liverpool alongside fellow England striker Daniel Sturridge against his former employers.
Suarez’s long suspension may also make Reds boss Brendan Rodgers re-evaluate his summer transfer plans.
Rodgers has been keen to seal a £27m deal for Saints skipper Adam Lallana and could also move for wantaway St Mary’s centre half Dejan Lovren, who could cost around £16m.
But Rodgers has other transfer targets as well, and could well now be forced to sign an expensive replacement for Suarez – either as a short term deputy or a permanent one if the club finally wash their hands of their controversial star.
That might mean he has to shelve plans to sign Lallana or Lovren, or even both.
In addition to his four month ban from all football, Suarez has also been fined around £66,000 and banned for nine international games.