Luis Suarez completed a remarkable personal turnaround on Monday night as fans named him Player of the Year at the William Hill Football Supporters’ Federation Awards.
The award shows how far Suarez has come since his shocking bite attack on Branislav Ivanovic back in April, after which he became so hated that he felt the need to leave England, per the Independent's Carl Markham.
However, Liverpool fans will be more interested in Suarez’s words upon receiving the honour, which spoke of a need for the current Reds squad to stick together in pursuit of their goals, per Sky Sports:
Liverpool are starting to reach their potential and we can play our best on the pitch.
It's very important that we stay together, we keep going, this is very important. If Liverpool don't have these players I cannot continue my level, because it's too much.
They know I am important, so they try everything to stay together, that's important for me, but it's more important for the club.
Suarez continued to stress the importance of staying united as a squad when asked about his role as captain in Steven Gerrard’s absence:
If we stay together, we are together, we are the captain, the team is the captain, that's important.
It's far more important than me being captain that we win 5-0 against Tottenham, this is very important.
Liverpool will now hope Suarez practises what he is preaching by rejecting the expected advances of European giants like Real Madrid, not only in January but also next summer.
Skipper Gerrard recently spoke of his own fear that Suarez might soon outgrow the Reds, having taken his goal tally to an astonishing 17 strikes in 11 league outings so far this term. “We're lucky to have him and we need to enjoy him while he's here,” Gerrard told Sky Sports.
James Dickenson of the Express has tipped Madrid to launch an approach for the Uruguayan superstar in January, although it seems highly unlikely Suarez would leave Anfield in the midst of a Premier League title challenge.
Those last four words are key to this developing saga.
Not since Suarez joined Liverpool has the Merseysiders’ name been mentioned in the same sentence as the words: Premier League title challenge.
Yet Liverpool are currently two points off top spot and able to leapfrog Arsenal with victory over Cardiff on Saturday. They then face away trips to Chelsea and Manchester City, where they firmly have the chance to prove they are challenging for the country’s top prize.
Suarez should be able to see the shoots of something special sprouting under Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool’s 5-0 thrashing of Tottenham on Sunday was no fluke, and it was inspired by a player—Jordan Henderson—who has gone from laughing stock to genuine midfield inspiration.
That is due to Rodgers, whose coaching style is beginning to earn the praise it deserves:
Liverpool have the top goalscorer in the Premier League, and they also have an attacking genius in Philippe Coutinho who is still yet to lose a league game in which he has started this season.
Where will Liverpool finish this season?
When the Brazilian plays, Liverpool’s midfield cuts straight through its opposition, making life so much easier for Suarez and—when fit—Daniel Sturridge up front.
Liverpool’s defence also matches the goals-conceded column of Chelsea and City, while their goal difference is only bettered by Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
Title contenders? If the Reds aren't, barely any other team are either.
Ultimately, a lack of squad depth might cost Liverpool this year. They struggled badly in the absence of Coutinho, losing to Arsenal, Southampton and Hull when he did not start.
Yet Rodgers’ side have shown in the past they can cope for spells without captain Gerrard, and they have even coped without Suarez.
If the current crop of players stick together—as urged by Suarez—for this season and into the next, and if Rodgers adds a couple more smart additions, there are signs to suggest Monday’s individual award for Suarez might be eclipsed by the Premier League trophy.