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London – Brendan Rodgers has hit out at the treatment of Luis Suarez by claiming Liverpool’s star striker has been heavily criticised for diving because he is not British.
Liverpool’s showdown with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday will be dominated by the clash between two of the outstanding PFA Player of the Year candidates in Suarez and Gareth Bale and the Wales forward will step out at Anfield having just picked up his fourth booking of the season for diving.
Suarez, by contrast, has been shown a yellow card twice in the past year for simulation – they came against Sunderland in September and Aston Villa last April – yet the exposure the Uruguayan has received on the matter has dwarfed the focus on Bale.
Rodgers came down hard on Suarez in January when the player admitted on Argentinian TV that he had dived in a game against Stoke and, since then, his behaviour on the pitch has improved but it has made have made scant difference to how he is perceived.
Liverpool feel Bale was feted for his display against Inter Milan but that his booking was played down. Suarez, on the other hand, faced questions on whether he would be punished for violent conduct by Uefa after an accidental collision against Zenit St Petersburg following a similarly brilliant display.
Rodgers said: “I know if that had been Luis, I would have been sat there answering questions for about half an hour.
“That’s why I defend Luis. If players or people are judging him on his football then he’s been consistently the best player right the way through the season.
“If they are going to judge him on things outside of football, then they won’t be just judging him (on his ability) and they can’t just judge him (on reputation), because there have been misdemeanours by other players.
“We are judging him by his qualities on the field and those have been evident. I can only protect my player and judge him from what we see. I’ve said before it’s something that is quite clear. I don’t think it’s just with Luis. There are other foreign players it can happen to.
“It’s funny and quite enjoyable when it happens to a British player but when it’s a foreign player it’s different. You can see with Luis that he has taken on board everything, speaks with his team-mates and you can see that change in him.
“I have given him responsibility on the field and you can see that maturity in his performance. His football is outstanding.”
A Liverpool win against Tottenham would put them into the top six for the first time this season and the game will see Jamie Carragher, who has kept more clean sheets than any other player, notch up the latest landmark of his career when he becomes the eighth man to play 500 Barclays Premier League games.
Carragher is adamant that Suarez has done enough to win one of the Footballer of the Year gongs.
“I would go with Luis,” said Carragher.”He’s not just a goal scorer. I believe he’s the best player in the league. Gareth Bale is an outstanding player but I’ve said for the past 18 months I wouldn’t swap Luis for anyone.”
Meanwhile, Carlos Zambrano has confirmed Daily Mail’s account of Liverpool’s interest in him but remained guarded over his future. The 23-year old Peru centre back is under contract at Eintracht Frankfurt until the summer of 2015 and is valued at around £4.5million. He said: “It is true. I know all about Liverpool’s interest, but no offer has been made yet.” – Daily Mail