Liverpool's Steven Gerrard has revealed he has told Luis Suarez he should only leave the club for Real Madrid or Barcelona, but that first the Uruguayan striker should experience Champions League football at Anfield rather than compromise with a move to Arsenal.
Outspoken on the subject of Suarez ahead of his testimonial against Olympiakos at Anfield on Saturday, Gerrard said that he has left his team-mate in no doubt that he should stay at Liverpool. The club have already rejected Arsenal’s £40,000,001 bid for the player who still has six games of his 10-match ban to serve.
Gerrard also admitted that an in-form Suarez could be the difference in Liverpool’s season. “It’s difficult every season to finish in the top-four positions because of the power the likes of Man City, Chelsea and Manchester United have got at the moment,” he said. “The likes of us, Tottenham and Arsenal are fighting to sneak into the other place that’s available.
“Where we sit actually right now, it all depends on what decision Luis Suarez makes in the next few weeks. How difficult it becomes for Liverpool. If we lose him then the challenge becomes even more difficult. It’s that simple.
“If he goes to Arsenal, it obviously makes our season that little bit more difficult. It strengthens them an awful lot and they are our rivals for a top-four position. From the club’s point of view it doesn’t make sense at all, no matter how much money is put on the table.
“He’s the third best player in the world now. I’d put him alongside [Gareth] Bale. You’ve got Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who are on a different planet, then you’ve got Bale and Suarez.”
When it was put to Gerrard that Suarez’s chief concern was that he wanted to play Champions League football, the Liverpool captain said that it was the same for him. “So do I. If he was to stay around for 12 months and we achieved a top-four finish, there is no better place in the world to play Champions League football than in front of an Anfield crowd.
“You only have to walk around this training ground to see some of the quotes from top players and top managers around the world when they talk about the atmosphere on a Champions League night. For me, surely you want to play Champions League with Liverpool rather than anyone else.
“If he was to go abroad to a Madrid or Barcelona I would totally understand it. He’s a South American. He’s good enough to play in either of those teams. From a family point of view, it’s where they all want to be. Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, some of the top players I’ve played with – their dream was to play for Real or Barcelona.
“If I was him I would wait for one of those two clubs because I think he’s good enough to play for them.”
Suarez is available for Saturday’s game which, although a testimonial and part of a tribute to Gerrard, will be treated as a regular pre-season friendly by manager Brendan Rodgers. “Whether he plays or not will be the manager’s decision,” Gerrard said. “Do I want him to play? Yeah. I think he will get a very good ovation because the fans will want to show him how much they want to keep him. You can understand the frustration because they don’t want to lose a top player. It’s similar to when they didn’t want to lose Fernando Torres. It hurts them a lot. If he does move on to another club everyone connected to the club will be hurt because he’s a top player.”
Gerrard said he had been trying “loads” to convince Suarez to stay since the striker joined the club’s tour of Australia. He said: “Of course I’ve been trying to convince him. We will have to wait and see if I have any joy. It’s a difficult one from a team-mate’s perspective. You have got to show a player respect. Luis is his own guy, makes his own decisions. But Luis knows what I want him to do, don’t worry about that.”
Saturday’s game, broadcast on BT Sport, will be Liverpool’s only pre-season friendly at Anfield. Gerrard said: “If the manager gets a few more signings in and we manage to keep Luis, that strengthens us an awful lot and gives me confidence that we can compete. Keeping Luis could be our best signing of the summer.”