Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Smiling Suarez back at Anfield

Liverpool confirmed on Friday that Luis Suarez was back training with the first team

Brendan Rodgers described Luis Suarez as "back...smiling and happy" as the Uruguay international arrived at Anfield for Liverpool's opening game of the season against Stoke.

The 26-year-old still has six games of a 10-match ban left to be served after biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic last season, ruling him out until the end of next month.

Liverpool's summer has been overshadowed by the Suarez saga with the striker's future the subject of speculation after he began agitating for a move away.

He returned to training with his first-team colleagues yesterday for the first time in over a week having been exiled by Rodgers after the player claimed the manager and the club had reneged on a deal agreed last summer to allow him to leave for a Champions League side.

Suarez went public with his grievances after a second bid of £40,000,001 by Arsenal, which they thought should have triggered his departure, was rejected by the Merseysiders.

Liverpool have always maintained there was no release clause as such, only a requirement to notify the player and begin negotiations should they wish.

Manager Rodgers has been clearly exasperated as the questions over Suarez show no sign of abating.

Ahead of today's match, Rodgers told BT Sport 1: "I said in the press conference the other day and I repeat the same now, Luis is obviously banned from playing through to the end of September.

"Out of respect for all the other players who have been outstanding for me over the course of pre-season I am not going to mention any more about Luis Suarez. As you can imagine, it's been non-stop really so the only thing is he is back...and he is smiling and happy and we'll move on."

It follows Rodgers' admission he is confident the saga can be satisfactorily concluded.

In a pre-recorded interview with BT Sport, the former Swansea boss said: "He's been brilliant for the club - obviously there have been issues over the summer - but I'm sure they'll be resolved."

After all the talk swirling around Anfield throughout the summer, a smiling Suarez arrived at the ground today.

Carrying daughter Delfina, he walked around the perimeter of the pitch to a ripple of applause from the smattering of fans assembled inside the ground an hour before kick-off.

He even stopped to shake hands with former referee Mark Halsey at pitchside before disappearing down the tunnel, emerging less than 10 minutes later to make the walk back to the executive boxes in the Centenary Stand on the opposite side of the ground.

A small group of Stoke bans booed as he walked past them but there was more applause and the odd cheer.

Rodgers' response to the South American's comments had been to claim the attitude and performances of last season's 30-goal striker had fallen below the required standard and he was to train on his own until an apology was forthcoming.

Even with the transfer window closing in just over a fortnight, time was always on the manager's side once they had made it clear the player was not for sale because of Suarez's long suspension.

But Rodgers will feel vindicated his stance, fully backed by principal owner John Henry's unequivocal statement that Suarez was not for sale, has appeared to strengthen his authority.

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