Belfast Telegraph

James: Reds better without Suarez

Former Liverpool goalkeeper David James believes his old club have a better chance of finishing in the top four without striker Luis Suarez.

The ex-England international, who was at Anfield for seven years in the 1990s, thinks the 26-year-old's presence is actually getting in the way of them becoming a better side.

He said the Reds were restricted by having him in the side because everything seemed to focus on the Uruguay striker and not on the wider team element.

"On a purely footballing side of things, as talented an individual as he is, the problem I find is that everything seems to go through Luis Suarez," said the 43-year-old.

"You have this talented player and there is no question about that but does it make the team better?

"I think there is so much hinging on Suarez that it is actually stopping Liverpool from progressing.

"I think the club, in letting him go, can actually then develop a lot more unpredictability about them, in the sense that they will have more options to play.

"(Daniel) Sturridge came in and was their second top goalscorer in half a season and you have Stevie G (Gerrard) there as always bolstering those numbers but there is so much focus on one player.

"Last season Liverpool finished seventh. I think without Suarez, they have a better chance (of finishing top-four)."

The Uruguay international has made it clear to the Reds he wants to play in the Champions League and that has alerted Arsenal, who have made two failed bids, the last an offer of £40million and £1.

They believed that would trigger a sale clause in his contract but Liverpool are adamant that figure only requires them to inform the player of the offer and negotiate if they wish to sell.

Manager Brendan Rodgers reiterated at the weekend after Gerrard's testimonial at Anfield that the striker was not for sale, and if he was his true worth was not in excess of 50 per cent less than Tottenham's Gareth Bale who is rumoured to be a £100million target for Real Madrid.

Suarez made his second appearance at Anfield in three days with the club holding an open training session for about 5,000 selected fans.

Just like during his 30-minute cameo at the weekend, the striker was cheered at every opportunity during the hour or so the players were out on the pitch but was reluctant to acknowledge such support.

But while he is still warmly regarded by supporters James said they should not fear a future without the player who scored 30 goals last season.

"They love this man, or the vast majority of them do," he said at the launch of a deal which sees bookmakers Betfred show BT Sport in all their 1,370 shops as part of Betfred TV.

"For all the turmoil he has been through at that club he came on the pitch at Stevie G's testimonial and got a very good reception.

"But I still think Liverpool can progress without him so it is not a case of them having to turn their back on him or dislike him.

"I think if you are a Liverpool fan you just say 'We can do well without him - we don't need him as our talisman'.

"If he goes to Arsenal then I would argue that Luis Suarez will do what Luis Suarez does. Will that make Arsenal a better team?

"He might score as many goals but I think you would lose goals from elsewhere.

"It wouldn't be a loss for Liverpool."

Suarez is still banned for the first six matches of the season as his 10-match suspension for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April is carried over.

With that in mind, irrespective of the transfer saga, the Anfield training session saw the welcome return of Sturridge, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury since May.

He will not play in Wednesday's friendly against Valerenga in Norway but could feature against Celtic in Dublin on Saturday.

"I thought he looked very sharp," Rodgers told

"It's important he has another good week's training and it was great to see him back today, because for me he can be one of the top strikers in the Premier League this season.

"He's played no part in the pre-season so when you put him in at the top end of the field with his pace, power and his quality we are able to add something more to the group as well."

Liverpool are still pursuing a deal for Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa after making a £21.8million bid and they could find out later this week whether they have been successful.


From Belfast Telegraph