‘Stop giving out about Suarez and just enjoy his talents’, says Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes English football fans should enjoy watching controversial forward Luis Suarez while they can.
Suarez again hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the wake of his handball goal that helped the Reds beat non-league Mansfield 2-1 in Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie.
The Uruguayan, whose career has been marked by a series of controversies, controlled the ball with his right wrist before steering Liverpool's second goal over the line after his initial shot had been saved by Stags goalkeeper Alan Marriott.
It could be argued that the goal would not have created nearly as much of a stir had it been scored by any other player, and while Rodgers feels Suarez's reputation goes before him, he insists the 25-year-old should be embraced for his exceptional ability.
"He has had seven yellow cards this year, but he hasn't warranted all seven," said Rodgers.
"He is a wonderful professional. I think in this country we need to enjoy it whilst he is here because he is a brilliant talent.
"He is a good man as well, a good family man, and as a manager, he is someone who wants to come in and work.
"He wanted to start yesterday's game, even though he has really been my only striker for the last six months.
"Yesterday was a game he was up for because it was street football for him, he enjoys that type of game.
"But I can only talk about his talents. I always try to educate the players, with regard to every aspect of their life.
"As I've said, he's very receptive, and we go forward with him."
Suarez was sent off during the 2010 World Cup quarter-final between Uruguay and Ghana for a deliberate handball on the goal-line, and when Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan missed the subsequent penalty, Suarez celebrated gleefully on the touchline in a match the South Americans went on to win.
Since moving to England he has served an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra before refusing to shake Evra's hand in the next meeting of the sides last February, and has been accused by some managers of going to ground too easily to win free-kicks and penalties.
Despite the furore surrounding Suarez's goal and the debate as to whether he should have owned up to his indiscretion, Mansfield striker Matt Green knows he would have done the same if in that position.
Green set up a pulsating finish with a 79th-minute goal that arguably should have been the equaliser if referee Andre Marriner and his assistants had deemed Suarez's 19th of the season as a deliberate handball.
Green, who described his own strike as a "dream come true" and "something (he would) remember for the rest of (his) life", said of Suarez's goal: "Obviously, as a goalscorer you don't care how it goes in the net.
"I'm not saying that's the right way to put it in the net, but you claim anything as a striker."
Asked if he would have taken such a goal, Green replied: "If my name was on the scoresheet, I would have as well.
"But it is really gutting to be put out of the FA Cup by something like that against such a big club."
The stark reality for both clubs and their 93-place difference in the standings is whilst Mansfield face Kidderminster in the Blue Square Premier this weekend, Liverpool head to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United.
For Rodgers, his side face a crucial period in their bid for Champions League football next season as three of their next four games are at United, Manchester City and Arsenal.
At Anfield earlier this season, the same three fixtures yielded just a point, a fact Rodgers is convinced can be redressed.
"They're tough games, but we'll be in better condition for those games than we were earlier in the season," said Rodgers.
"We picked up one point from those three games, even though we played well in two of them.
"But this is a team that is improving every day, every week, and we're all really looking forward to the second part of the season.
"Our continuity in our game is getting better, and the more they work with each other the better they become.
"There is no doubt they are big games and we will look forward to them."