Gerrard: Suarez best Reds team-mate
Published 16/05/2014 | 13:32
Luis Suarez is by some distance the best player Steven Gerrard has played with at Liverpool and one who the England captain believes has shown his true character this season.
Few expected to see the Uruguayan don the red shirt again after a summer of speculation, controversy and frustration, yet the 27-year-old was persuaded to stay at Anfield and the rewards reaped by all parties have been spectacular.
Putting the negative headlines behind him, Suarez netted a remarkable 31 goals as the Reds came within touching distance of a first top-flight title in 24 years.
That form saw him sweep up at the end-of-season awards, including the Football Writers' Footballer of the Year award which was collected on his behalf by manager Brendan Rodgers on Thursday.
Liverpool skipper Gerrard believes that award is particularly special as it highlights Suarez's "huge turnaround", and is deserved recognition for the club's best player this millennium.
"I've been privileged to play alongside some great players during my years at Liverpool but nobody comes close to Luis," Gerrard said.
"He's not only the best, he's the best by some distance.
"We've all seen what he's done this season with his goals and his all-round brilliance and I think it's taken Luis on to a different level.
This season has seen quite the turnaround from Suarez, who last year received just two votes in the FWA poll.
He has come full circle since serving a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, with his behaviour vastly-improved to that seen in previous seasons.
"People look at him and will still pick up on the controversy that he's been involved with over the last couple of years," Gerrard said in the awards programme.
"But I prefer to judge a person by how he responds to setbacks and the way Luis has responded has been magnificent.
"He was incredibly despondent last summer. He knew he'd let himself and the club down but, more importantly, he felt he'd let his family down.
"They mean so much to him that he didn't want his children growing up and reading about just the bad things he's done, he wanted them to see the positive side of their dad.
"As captain, I was there for him. We talked a fair few times and I tried to be as supportive as I possibly could.
"It doesn't matter what words you come up with, though, it's down to the lad himself to respond - and Luis has certainly done that.
"Yes, I think there were times in the summer when he wanted to leave Liverpool, that he thought he needed a change.
"One thing I'll say for this club is that they weren't just strong in standing by Luis, they also made him realise just how important he was to their plans this season."