Liverpool: How Do Reds Ensure Luis Suarez Stays at Anfield?
Luis Suarez has suffered yet another bout of transfer-rumour angst, as he was quoted as saying he would be inclined to speak to Champions League sides this summer.
This leaves Liverpool with another two-pronged battle: First off, to repel the rumours in the press, and secondly, to ward off what is likely to be serious interest in the player come the summer transfer window.
Of course, Suarez's comments didn't exactly say he wanted to leave, but that's how they were reported nonetheless (via Echo):
I am very happy at Liverpool but you never know in football. If another team comes around with more prospects of competing in international club competition games, which is willing to have me, they are welcome. We would talk to the club, we would see if I want to go, if I don’t want to go.
Hardly the stuff you'd expect to hear before the player hands in a transfer request, but there can similarly be little doubt that Liverpool will have to fulfill several criteria over the next 15 months or so to persuade Suarez that his long-term future should be at Liverpool.
Here are five things they'll need to try to do to get him to stay this summer—at least.
Continue to Show Impressive Form on the Field as Often as Possible
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First off, there cannot be any denying that Liverpool have become an exciting and progressive side in the final third of the pitch as the season has worn on, and Luis Suarez has been a big part of that.
If, over the final eight games of the season, they can continue to offer as many more of those attack-minded performances as possible—as opposed to the unexpected dross served up against Southampton recently—then Suarez will be reminded of the important role he has, where so much play goes through him.
Whether playing from the left or the centre of the Reds' attack, Suarez is the key man in both buildup phases and finishing moves off in front of goal.
The more he's involved, the more likely he is to want to remain involved.
End the Season in a Top-Six Place
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Liverpool have suffered over the last few seasons in terms of their Premier League place, ending seventh, sixth and eighth in consecutive campaigns.
While they are unlikely to make that late surge for a European place now—they have suffered too many disappointing defeats along the way to suggest they won't at least receive one more this term—there is still the possibility of ending this season in the highest position in three years.
If Rodgers can guide his team to enough consistency to finish the campaign in sixth place, that would have to be regarded as a season of positive progression, especially considering the points won over the second half of the year.
Bring in the Right Players over the Summer
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One of the biggest parts of any club's year is, of course, the summer transfer window.
It's a chance to repair or restructure, improve and upgrade, and show signs of intent for the coming season by signing the players who will genuinely make a difference.
Therein lies the challenge for Brendan Rodgers this summer, as he identifies the players who can move the Reds from the top six to the top four and convince them to come to Liverpool.
Incoming quality always gives the players already at the club a boost, even when it means increased competition for places. Every player wants the chance to compete at the highest level and win trophies.
Bringing in a few players in key areas who will be first-team regulars next season (on merit) will do wonders for keeping the confidence and belief of the current squad, including Suarez, high and positive.
Find the Best Role for Suarez Within the Team Next Season
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Suarez, Coutinho, Sturridge...how to fit them all into the side?
That is one of the questions Brendan Rodgers will need to answer fairly quickly.
Playing Suarez in the No.10 role has seen Liverpool play almost a 4-2-4 at times recently, which is fine if they are in form, fluid, working hard and in possession for extended spells.
But on off days, or when the opposition midfield is simply better, playing a deep duo in the middle just isn't cutting it.
Suarez, whether he plays from the left or centrally, needs to have a role where he can affect the team's play, be free to roam to an extent and still get in advanced positions to score and assist goals.
The more comfortable he gets with his more-or-less permanent role—there will always be the chance for in-game changes—the better he is likely to play.
And the better Liverpool will be as a result.
End 2013-14 in the Champions League Positions
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Bottom line: Liverpool need to be in the Champions League for Luis Suarez to keep playing his football at Anfield.
The Reds need to finish next season in the top four to ensure they finally return to Europe's top table, which will in turn make attracting better players easier, will generate better finances and will be the biggest and best method of all of keeping their top players.
Including Luis Suarez.
It will take another big effort, as the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea will all likely improve once more, or try to, in the summer, but if Liverpool really expect Suarez to see out his present contract at the club, they simply have to offer him the Champions League.
2013-14 will be a big second season for Brendan Rodgers.