Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Luis Suarez can fire Liverpool to Champions League, says Brendan Rodgers

Luis Suarez is in fine form for Liverpool this season, scoring six goals in four league games since returning from suspension

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes a more mature Luis Suarez can fulfil his Champions League ambitions at Anfield and no longer needs to cast admiring glances at the likes of Arsenal.

The Uruguay international was so keen to take up the Gunners' offer of an escape route in the summer after they bid £40,000,001 he accused the Reds of reneging on a deal which he claimed allowed him to leave for a side playing with Europe's elite.

Liverpool owner John Henry was unequivocally opposed to selling to a rival and that stance appears to have been rewarded with the South American scoring six goals in four league matches since returning from suspension this season.

That, along with fellow striker Daniel Sturridge's blistering form of eight in nine league games, has propelled Liverpool to third in the table, just two points behind tomorrow's opponents Arsenal.

And while it may be a position some feel is unlikely to be sustained, Rodgers (pictured) insists Suarez should have no reason to want to leave as he can play Champions League football with his current side.

"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," said the Reds boss.

"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 in 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.

"There is no greater stage for him than a club like this and once the window was shut, like we thought, there was never going to be an issue.

"It is a player we were really happy to keep who is surrounded by other good players as well.

"He is one of the hardest-working players that is in love with football I've seen and once the window shut he has been brilliant.

"He is maturing as a man. He is 26, a father of two now, and I think the maturity in his game and personal life is there to see.

"Everyone talks about his goals and work-rate but I've seen an improvement in his football ability and his maturity.

"That really bodes well for us. We won't get carried away, we have to keep our concentration and continue to work hard."

Rodgers has, understandably, aligned his position as close as possible to owners Fenway Sports Group.

The Americans appointed him as successor to a club icon in Kenny Dalglish in the summer of 2012 and he has been keen to praise the support he has received.

With FSG's other main sporting interest the Boston Red Sox having this week won baseball's World Series, and to a lesser extent Liverpool Ladies winning the Premier League, was Rodgers contemplating completing the treble?

"That will be straightforward, won't it?" he responded.

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

"I am aware of the changeabout they were making there in order to bring about that success and I think it is very clear they are a group who have a clear, deliberate plan on how to get that success.

"Everyone is aware it takes that bit longer in this sport.

"They are trying to do it in a sensible way here while recognising the expectancy here, which is to succeed.

"For us that is the longer-term aim. We want to be up there challenging and winning trophies and there is no shying away from that."

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