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Feb 7, 2014

Rodgers: Suarez battle made me better

Brendan Rodgers believes he has become a better manager for his handling of Luis Suarez's bid to leave Liverpool last summer.

Suarez will line up for Rodgers against Arsenal in the Premier League at Anfield on Saturday, but he could as easily have been playing for the visitors.

Brendan Rodgers says stopping Arsenal's pursuit of Luis Suarez made him a stronger boss.
Brendan Rodgers says stopping Arsenal's pursuit of Luis Suarez made him a stronger manager.

The Gunners made two bids to sign the striker last summer, including an offer of 40,000,001 pounds that they mistakenly thought would trigger a release clause.

Suarez, who at the time was serving a 10-match domestic suspension for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a league match, also gave a number of interviews stating that the wanted to leave Anfield, three years before his contract was scheduled to expire.

Liverpool refused to deal, though, as principal owner John W Henry dismissed as "ludicrous" the idea of selling their leading scorer to Arsenal -- potential rivals for Champions League qualification.

As it was, Suarez ended up staying, and signed a contract extension in December that commits him to staying at Anfield until 2018.

And the Liverpool manager has nothing but praise for the commitment the his 23-goal top scorer has shown since returning from his ban in late September.

And asked if he felt he was a better manager for last summer's experiences, Rodgers said: "Yes. When you're doing your coaching courses and badges, you don't get these types of scenarios.

"It's how you deal with them that can make you. The modern game now is about the man-management side of things.

"My natural environment is on the field, coaching. That's what I've done all my life. But there's absolutely no doubt that the man-management aspect of it is something that's important.

"What you have to do is always respect your players, but hope that you can find the common ground that allows the club to take advantage of some of the great players that we can have.

"And from that moment, I knew with Luis that once we ended the speculation with him, it would be fine.

"I've never known a player like him in training. This guy genuinely loves football, and that's continually, whether it's summer or winter, whatever."

Even so, Rodgers is aware that the 27-year-old may be difficult to hang on to if Liverpool do not qualify for next season's Champions League.

The Reds last played in the competition in 2009, but are well placed to qualify again, going into the weekend's Premier League fixtures lying fourth in the table.

Rodgers can understand the desire Suarez has to play Champions League football, which he last did for Ajax three seasons ago.

And the manager said it was his understanding of Suarez's character that helped smooth things over when the player's relationship with the club fractured last summer.

Rodgers said: "I knew, first and foremost, the human qualities of Luis. He's a good man.

"I've found since I've been here that he's a very generous human being. I've found him very amicable in everything I've tried to speak with him on. He's a learner.

"He was in a difficult place in the summer. I understood where he was at. I had empathy for his situation.

"I've watched Champions League games for many years. He's a player who wants to be at that level, and a player who deserves to be at that level.

"But we had to protect and fight for the club, and hope to sell to him that this is still the place for him to play at that level.

"I've watched Liverpool from the outside and spoken to players here who have been involved in it, and there are not too many better places to be than Anfield on a Champions League night.

"So it was about managing the situation, and always being honest about the situation. Managing is what you get paid for.

"I know a lot of Liverpool supporters -- they love Luis, and they found it difficult in the summer to accept how it was maybe going to pan out.

"But I think you've seen, by the reaction from them since, the love they have for him and the support they have for him.

"Maybe earlier on at the beginning of the season, there was still some hangover from the summer.

"But I think you see his commitment and hunger for the club, and I think that overrides any ill feeling that there might have been."

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