At least that seems to be the case, if his managerial press conference on Friday is any indication of how he feels about Suarez.
When asked about the 26-year-old star, who has been the subject of innumerable amounts of transfer rumors in this summer period, Rodgers steadfastly claimed that he wanted Suarez back at Anfield. He claims to be in constant contact with him, via text messages and calls, and has kept mum on fellow Premier League sides' attempts to pull in Liverpool's best player.
Later calling Suarez an "absolute magician on the field," per Sky Sports, Rodgers went out of his way to effusively praise the controversial striker.
"Luis is a real competitor, a real winner," Rodgers said. "He wants Liverpool to do so well but, like every player, every manager, and more importantly every football club, they want to be working at the very highest level."
John Cusack, meet your Ione Skye. And if that's too old of a reference for you—don't worry, I wasn't even born when Say Anything came out, either—perhaps this Love Actually scene better fits your feelings when hearing Rodgers speak about Suarez. Regardless, this situation feels like one twisted romantic comedy—one that both sides are better off walking away from than giving this one more try.
Ever since signing Suarez beginning with the 2010-11 season, the Uruguayan striker and Rodgers have seen each other try to strike a balance between keeping controversies low and spirits high at Anfield. It hasn't gone the way anyone expected.
That's especially the case over these past two seasons, where Liverpool have dived out of contention among the English elite as criticism over Suarez's behavior has reached an apex.
In December of 2011, the England's Football Association handed down swift penalties for what they deemed racist behavior from Suarez directed at Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. The situation sparked some controversy, with some being upset about the FA taking Evra's word over the denials of Suarez. Liverpool were shocked by the decision, which seemed relatively unprecedented at the time.
The FA's decision later became more understandable, as transcripts of Evra's claims later came out. Suarez, according to The Guardian's report on the hearing, allegedly told the Manchester United star that he kicked him because he was black and that he doesn't speak to black people. We'll probably never know if that's the case—Suarez denied it all—but it's fair to say that siding with the decision-makers is probably the safest course of action. And when Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand in his next fixture against Manchester United, let's just say he didn't make any friends.
The next two pieces of controversy surrounding Suarez are unmistakable, because his actions were caught on tape. He was banned for a game for flipping off Fulham fans, a gesture that's mostly laughable. Flipping off a large group of people could be offensive to some, but it's mostly just a silly finger being pointed up in the air. It shouldn't factor into any major decisions.
Suarez's next caper, however, should be fresh in the mind of Liverpool fans. In an April draw versus Chelsea, Suarez bit the arm of Branislav Ivanovic and was subsequently banned for 10 matches. There was seemingly no impetus to the biting, either. Suarez was angry, decided to get his Tyson on and Ivanovic just happened to be a victim.
Over the past two seasons, Suarez has been banned for a total of 19 matches. That's a half-season's worth of sitting out, thanks to stupid, immature actions.
I'm not the moral police, nor are Liverpool. But the last two years have seen Suarez be an unapologetic bigot and attempt to use an opponent's arm as a chew toy. And then he was somehow surprised that he became a major attraction for England's gossip rags, and asked for a transfer as a result. Call me old-fashioned, but perhaps if Suarez had common respect for different races and didn't feast on the harvested limbs of other human beings, then perhaps no one would care what he's doing at the market.
I mean, that wasn't even the first time Suarez bit someone. He was suspended for seven games back when he was with Ajax for chomping into SV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal. This is a pattern of petulant behavior from a 26-year-old married man with a child. His disregard for common decency is deplorable to the point where you have to wonder whether he'll ever learn.
Had Suarez been a secondary-level player, Liverpool would have accepted a transfer offer in a heartbeat. Hell, they may have dropped him outright after one or both of his major incidents. There certainty is the fact that Rodgers wouldn't be heaping praise on him.
Rodgers' reasoning behind wanting to keep Suarez is obvious. It's the same reason all talented players with major personality problems get away with things their mid-tier compatriots could never get away with. Suarez is one of the two or three best strikers in Premier League. He scored 23 goals this past season, second behind only United's Robin van Persie. He's one of the most creative players in the world in the open field, as evidenced by his excellent play in World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup for the Uruguayan national team.
Giving up on those types of players is understandably hard. Liverpool, no matter who they would bring in as a replacement, would be a far worse team without Suarez. That much is clear.
But in the case of risk versus reward, we have to consider whether Liverpool are actually losing anything of substance. They won the League Cup and were runners-up in the FA Cup in 2011-12, but there hasn't been much winning going on with Suarez on the pitch regardless. They've finished no higher than sixth in his two-plus seasons at Anfield, winding up eighth and seventh in his only two full seasons with the club.
Are Liverpool finishing top three with Suarez next season? Highly doubtful. Chelsea are in an arms race with Jose Mourinho back at Stamford Bridge. David Moyes will be desperate to compete for a title in his first year replacing Sir Alex Ferguson. City and their deep pockets always loom. And that's before even mentioning Tottenham or Arsenal, both of whom should contend for their same result as last season.
It's an uphill battle, with or without Suarez. And it's a battle Rodgers should be willing to fight without his controversial star. Suarez needs out to try fixing his reputation elsewhere. Liverpool need out to avoid questions about why they're employing a not-so-great human being.
There will be no happy ending to this love story.
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