Monday 23 October 2017

Suarez exit never on cards – Rodgers

Reds boss dismisses Arsenal swoop attempt ahead of star striker's face-off with Wenger

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers puts his arm around Philippe Coutinho who has recovered from injury in time to face Arsenal tomorrow
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers puts his arm around Philippe Coutinho who has recovered from injury in time to face Arsenal tomorrow

John Percy and Luke Edwards

Luis Suarez will face Arsene Wenger this weekend with Brendan Rodgers insisting the Uruguayan striker's move to Arsenal was "never going to happen".

Suarez is set to spearhead Liverpool's attempt to issue a huge statement of intent tomorrow against the Premier League leaders, three months after Wenger infuriated Rodgers by offering £40m plus a pound – the amount it was erroneously claimed would trigger the player's release.

Wenger's bid to sign Suarez descended into acrimony, with the forward publicly admitting he wanted to leave, but Liverpool owner John W Henry insisted he would not sell to a perceived rival.

Suarez eventually backed down after a protracted and bitter saga and has since returned from his 10-match suspension to score six goals for Liverpool, with Rodgers taking his evolving team to the Emirates tomorrow insisting the 26-year-old has stayed at the bigger club.

"I understand why Arsenal would want to buy a player of Luis' quality because he is one of the leading strikers in the world but it was something that was never going to happen," he said. "For us and the institution we are we certainly weren't going to sell to a rival, a competitor, and that was something which was very strong from the off.

"There was all sorts of gossip on the summer but we were very firm in our leadership, from the top right the way through, that this was something we didn't want to do.

"You have to give credit to the players themselves. It certainly wasn't an easy situation.


"It was also a great credit to the owners and the leadership of the club that they stood by what my thoughts were as a manager and they backed it all the way.

"This was the place for Luis to showcase his talents. He is a player, like some of our other players, who deserves to be playing at the highest level of European football but we believe he can do that at Liverpool.

"Once the window was shut, like we thought, there was never going to be an issue."

The uncertainty surrounding Suarez's future has now been rendered a distant memory after Liverpool's stirring start to the season.

Rodgers has guided the club to six wins from their opening nine games, with only one defeat, and much of that is down to Suarez's dynamic partnership with Daniel Sturridge, who said yesterday that he was never given a chance to show what he could do as a centre-forward during a frustrating three-and-a-half-year stay at Stamford Bridge.

Sturridge scored just 13 times in 63 games at Chelsea, but has notched 18 goals in 23 Premier League appearances since he moved to Liverpool for £12m at the start of the year.

Having been pushed out on to the wing and rarely given a run in the side at Chelsea, it has been the return to his natural position at Liverpool which has brought out the best in the 24-year-old. "When I went to Bolton on loan, I was able to show what I can do because I was playing as a centre-forward," he said.

"At Chelsea, I never got the chance to do that, and I've got that opportunity here at Liverpool. I'm just playing the position that I enjoy playing in.

"The manager knows what I need. I needed to be believed in, to play as a centre-forward."

Not only does Rodgers have faith in Sturridge, he also believes that Liverpool can finally end their painful exile from the Champions League. The Reds have not played in the competition since 2009 but Rodgers believes his squad will battle the likes of Arsenal for a top-four place.

"Saturday is a good benchmark for us," he said. "We have shown that we have quality in the team, that we've got a winning mentality, which is important, and that we can consistently bring that to the table.

"Saturday won't be the be-all and end-all in terms of whether we can make the top four or not, but I think what we have shown so far is that we are going to be in the conversation.

"I believe we are in a good moment. We have started the season as we would have wanted – strong. We are putting a marker down that we're going to be consistent. I think we can only get better and improve."

Rodgers was even having to contend with talk of a 'treble' for owners Fenway Sports Group, after the Boston Red Sox – owned prinicipally by Henry – won baseball's World Series, and Liverpool Ladies lifted the Premier League title.

"It is brilliant for them (FSG) and it is another demonstration of an organisation that has proven to be successful," Rodgers said.

Liverpool's squad will also be boosted this weekend by the return of playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who has missed the last six weeks with a shoulder injury. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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