AS THE final whistle blew on Liverpool’s Europa League hopes, Luis Suarez dropped to his knees before burying his head in the Anfield turf in anguish.
An abiding memory from a night of heartache, it could yet prove one of the defining images of a difficult debut campaign for Brendan Rodgers.
Suarez, as has been the story for much of the campaign, had given it his all only to find it wasn’t quite enough.
Now the Uruguayan forms one of several strands to suggest that, far from their season being over, Liverpool – both individually and collectively – still have much to play for this season.
Securing a return to Europe is the most pertinent objective. While the away goals exit to Zenit St Petersburg closed the final avenue to silverware, qualification for next term’s Europa League will, at the very least, offer some extra lure for potential summer signings.
It won’t be easy. Swansea City, Rodgers’s former club, have taken one of the three available berths, leaving just two to the Premier League, depending on who reaches the FA Cup final.
Liverpool stand eight points adrift of Arsenal in fifth place, the one guaranteed Europa League slot.
Sixth, though, may prove enough, and with Rodgers’s side only three points adrift of neighbours Everton, albeit with West Bromwich Albion also ahead of them, it is an attainable target.
But while the schedule over their remaining 11 games is not the most intimidating, that Liverpool’s sole victory over a top-half team was their recent rout of an under-strength Swansea underlines nothing can be taken for granted.
The same applies to Suarez.
A national newspaper this week began a campaign to ‘Keep Bale in Blighty’ with regards to rumours Tottenham Hotspur’s man-of-the-moment Gareth Bale could be lured away to either Real Madrid or Barcelona.
As preposterous as the crusade may be, Liverpool supporters could be forgiven for starting their own to ensure Suarez goes nowhere in the summer.
Suarez has recently spoken of his continued love for the club and even indicated he would be happy to sit down and discuss a new contract, despite signing his present deal less than 12 months ago.
But even Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard admitted a few weeks ago he has no idea whether Suarez will stay should Champions League qualification not be secured.
There’s little chance of a top-four place now. And supporters will hope the despairing reaction of Suarez to the Europa League exit isn’t ultimately be reflected upon as the moment the Uruguayan knew he wouldn’t be able to provide a silver lining as a parting gift.
Suarez’s comments this week – admittedly published in German newspaper Bild – offering a glimmer of encouragement to Bayern Munich will not have passed unnoticed.
Bayern, with Pep Guardiola arriving as manager in the summer, have earmarked the Uruguayan as their top target and, with Juventus also continuing to sniff around, Liverpool will surely be braced for offers in the summer.