London – Liverpool striker Luis Suarez insists he has finally learnt how to keep his explosive temper and cynical instincts under control.
Suarez has played a key role in Liverpool's emergence as surprise contenders for the Premier League title this season after surviving one of the darkest periods of his controversial career.
The Uruguay international has played only 15 league matches this term as he had to serve the remaining half of a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April.
The season before that the 26-year-old was banned for eight matches after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
He has also been accused of diving at times and earned widespread criticism for cynically conceding a penalty with a handball during the 2010 World Cup quarter-final against Ghana.
Suarez was sent off for the offence, but Ghana missed the penalty and Uruguay went on to win the tie.
But he has worked hard to keep his volatile emotions in check of late, telling ESPN: “My temperament, attitude, desire and hunger when I am on the pitch has always been like this and will continue to be this way, but I now know I have to control it more.
“An example of this was about two weeks ago when I had an open shot at goal and hit the post and it rebounded close to my hand and I was about to go for it and then I stopped.
“If the same thing had happened two months ago I would have gone for it. These things stay with me but I tell you I am changing.
“I am improving my attitude on the pitch because I know I was wrong in the past and I was creating an image of myself I know wasn't me.”
Securing a place in next season's Champions League is widely seen as vital to ensuring Suarez doesn't once again agitate for a move away from Anfield in the close-season.
He tried unsuccessfully to engineer a move to Arsenal before the start of the current campaign, angering Reds boss Brendan Rodgers in the process, but he has put that row behind him by scoring 20 Premier League goals already this term.
Liverpool are currently fourth in the table, the last of the Champions League qualifying spots, and Suarez is determined to ensure his side remain there until the end of the season.
“On the pitch I try to help Liverpool and I try to help the squad, and I think for confidence it is very good,” Suarez said after winning the Barclays award for the Premier League player of the month on Friday.
“If Liverpool continue at this level we can finish in the top four, which we want.” – Sapa-AFP