Brendan Rodgers has admitted he would understand if Luis Suarez considered quitting the Premier League and accused the men who banned him for 10 games of “throwing him into the garbage”.
The Liverpool manager said he was “bitterly disappointed” by the punishment handed to the striker by the Football Association’s independent panel for biting the Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic on Sunday. Rodgers thought it likely the panel may have been unfairly influenced by public attacks on Suarez – including one by the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
Suarez has four years of his contract with Liverpool still to run but the fear at Anfield is that he and his agent, Pere Guardiola, may now look for a way out – especially as the club cannot offer Champions League football next season.
Following his ban for racially abusing the Manchester United defender Patrice Evra last season, by October Suarez will have been suspended for 18 matches or almost half a season while under contract to Liverpool.
“I understand if he felt he couldn’t carry on,” said Rodgers. “One hundred per cent. This is a guy who I see on a daily basis trying very hard.
“His two passions are his family and Liverpool Football Club. He throws his life into that. He has traits that are part of his make up and I genuinely think he is trying to adapt but, each time he takes a step forward, we find ways to beat him with a stick and strike him down. I can understand if he felt like leaving in a moment of reflection.
“I am not worried about a knock on the door from Luis [asking to leave]. I’ve got a relationship with Luis that is probably as close as with anyone at the club. We speak on a daily basis.
“I’ve had a lot of discussions with Pere Guardiola over the last few days that have been very strong. They have been very happy with what the club has done over the last few days to protect and support the player. But they also understand he needs help.”
Rodgers pointed out that when Jermain Defoe bit Javier Mascherano during a game between Tottenham and West Ham in 2006 it was punished with a booking. In the same year, a Chester player, Sean Hessey, was given a five-match ban for a biting incident. He argued that the storm of criticism that included an intervention from Cameron contributed to the severity of the punishment. However, Suarez’s previous convictions would have been taken into account. The FA “carefully considered his football record” before imposing a 12-game ban on Joey Barton for a further act of violent conduct last season.
“There is no doubt that, if you have these high-profile figures making those sorts of statements, there will be bias,” Rodgers said. “If people have been reading and listening to those things for 24 hours and then sit down on Wednesday morning to discuss it – well, people might argue whether they already had a decision in their minds. You have an FA Council member, an FA County representative and an ex-player on the panel so I don’t know how it is independent.
“I felt Luis would get more than three matches but we did hope there would be something in there that would offer him a greater opportunity to rehabilitate. The biggest thing in all of this is to make sure it does not happen again. He fell well below the standards of this football club but that does not mean he should be thrown into the garbage. The player does need help and that is something I will look to provide. I would expect any business to look after their employee if they made a mistake.”
Suarez will train at Melwood for the rest of the season and, in Steve Peters, Liverpool have access to a sports psychologist with a history of turning troubled careers around.
“I think a lot of what Luis does stems from his background,” said Rodgers. “If you look at many South American players, they will do whatever it takes to win. They have been brought up to fight for their lives. Luis epitomises that. He has grown up in an environment where it is all about survival. If I had a team of Luis Suarezes, Liverpool would be in a better position than we are in now.”