London – Steven Gerrard has admitted Liverpool need a top-four finish to ensure that Luis Suarez spends the best years of his career at Anfield.
It had appeared a couple of months ago, given Liverpool’s indifferent league form, that Suarez would have to wait till at least 2014 to play for Liverpool in the Champions League but, suddenly, the prospects of him doing so later this year in a red shirt have significantly improved.
Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition of Norwich on Saturday, in which Suarez and new £12million signing Daniel Sturridge both capped sparkling performances with a goal, has helped Brendan Rodgers’ side close the gap on the teams above them.
Suarez’s magical season on the pitch has ensured that his legion of admirers is increasing – Bayern Munich are the latest side to be linked with the Uruguayan – and his importance to what Liverpool are aiming to achieve cannot be underestimated.
Though Suarez has never given any indication he wants to uproot, Gerrard has accepted it is inevitable he will one day play in the Champions League.
With that in mind, Liverpool’s captain has accepted the onus is on him and his team-mates to take any difficult choices away from Suarez.
“I know he’s signed recently a long-term contract,” Gerrard said during an appearance on Sky’s Goals on Sunday. “I know that he’s comfortable and he’s happy here. But I think that’s a question for Luis to answer.
“Only he knows what his ambitions and dreams are.He’s gone on record recently and said he’s really happy and comfortable here.
“Hopefully we can put a fight on from now until the end of the season to finish fourth, and make the decision for him. But Luis Suarez deserves to be in the Champions League. I think everyone has to admit that.”
The way he played on Saturday, it was difficult to argue.
Dovetailing sweetly with Sturridge – never more so than when the new man dummied a ball from Lucas Leiva that allowed Suarez to skip clear and score Liverpool’s second — the former Ajax striker tormented Norwich. Only a couple of days earlier, however, his decision to admit in an interview with Fox Sports Argentina that he had cheated in an attempt to win a penalty against Stoke had tormented Rodgers to the extent that Liverpool’s manager felt he needed to issue a stinging public rebuke.
Controversy has never been far away from Suarez but Gerrard, along with another of Liverpool’s elder statesmen, is ready to put a protective arm around him.
“People want to talk about the things he does wrong, but for me, I just want to praise him and how lucky we are to have him at Liverpool; hopefully we can keep him for a long time,” said Gerrard, who on Sunday attended a tribute dinner held by the Football Writers’ Association in his honour.
“He seems settled, he loves the club. He’s a real family man. He is trying to deal with (the English culture), he is trying to learn.
“He’s not shutting away from it. He has been really open to it (diving) and admitted to it in the interview. He’ll learn from it. It’s down to the likes of me and Jamie (Carragher) to help and guide him. He is still only young and learning.
“But for me, I’d rather focus on the good stuff that he does. We’ll be talking about this guy for many, many years. He’s in the top five best players in the world, comfortably.” – Daily Mail