Friday 17 November 2017

Reds to fight 'tooth and nail' for Suarez

Rodgers insists striker's future not linked to Champions League

Luis Suarez lets fly during his four-goal performance for Liverpool against Norwich at Anfield
Luis Suarez lets fly during his four-goal performance for Liverpool against Norwich at Anfield

Chris Bascombe

LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers says there is no 'gentleman's agreement' with Luis Suarez allowing him to leave Anfield at the end of the season if the club fails to realise their Champions League ambitions.

Rodgers re-iterated the Merseyside club's desire to fight "tooth and nail" to keep the South American for the long-term. The 26-year-old will have two years remaining on his contract by the time of the World Cup.

A queue will be forming to tempt Suarez away given his superb form, demonstrated by his spectacular four-goal haul against Norwich City this week.

Liverpool know in the summer they must either convince Suarez to agree new terms or begin the process of maximising the value of any transfer.

Although no negotiations are scheduled it is only a matter of time before the issue is back on the agenda.

The Merseyside club succeeded in repelling Arsenal's efforts to lure Suarez last summer, their offer of £40m plus £1 well short of the South American's market value.

SUSPICION

The suspicion then was that Suarez had been urged to stay for at least one more season and help Liverpool try to finish in the top four, on the understanding there would be a more sympathetic response to a transfer request in 2014.

Rodgers has rejected that theory, however, declaring: "There never was that before and there never was that this summer. I didn't sit in on the conversations, but as I understand it there is no agreement of any kind.

"The contract was what it was. We want him to stay and with his contract running for two-and-a-half years I am sure there will be something between now and the end of the season to keep him here – but there will be a number of dependencies on that. But the most important thing is that he is happy.

"There is probably a realisation of where he is at. The club's stance in the summer was well documented, but everyone stood by him, there was the warmth of the supporters, the power of his team-mates, the strength of the club and the way of working here all playing a factor.

"I knew once we got that window out of the way (his early-season suspension) that he loves being on the football field and, as hard as that was for him in the summer, once that was over and done with he would continue to show his continued importance to us. He has shown that, he is first-class."

The tributes continued to flow for Suarez following his goalscoring masterclass, and Rodgers suggested the striker has the potential to become Liverpool's greatest ever player – providing he stays at the club.

Rodgers said: "There's no doubt that this club has been blessed with a No 7 like Kenny Dalglish, the greatest player this club has had, and many other No 7s that have been brilliant but if Luis Suarez stays here for his career, he is certainly going to challenge that, there's no question about that.

"I was trying to think back to a game where a player scores a couple of goals like that and the game that hits me was Matt Le Tissier against Newcastle at The Dell many years ago. He scored two absolutely brilliant goals and it stuck with me.

"Wednesday night was the first time we got three goals in a game like that, so different but absolutely brilliant finishes. "Luis deserves all the acclaim he gets. It was a wonderful performance. If he is going to be here a long time, he has a great chance of establishing himself as one of the greats of this football club."

The challenge for Liverpool remains keeping Suarez, who has at least vowed not to push for a January transfer.

BATTLE

In the absence of Premier League titles, Liverpool have found themselves in a constant, annual battle to retain star strikers over the last decade.

Michael Owen was linked with moves abroad on a seasonal basis during his peak, eventually moving to Real Madrid in 2004.

Suarez's predecessor, Fernando Torres, brought years of speculation to an end when he signed for Chelsea in January, 2011.

Both players will acknowledge they were at their best in a Liverpool jersey, never repeating their same prolific form elsewhere, and Rodgers believes the way in which a player and club can complement each other should be not be disregarded when assessing Suarez's form.

"It was a hard summer for everyone but he probably realised himself how much we love him here," said Rodgers.

"It wasn't a pretend love, it was a genuine feeling he has had with the supporters since he came here and that is going to grow over time." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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