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ESPN FC Posted by ESPN staff
Sep 26, 2013

'Luis Suarez damaged Liverpool brand'

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has admitted the actions of Luis Suarez have "damaged" the club's brand.

• Jolly: Suarez the nearly man on Liverpool return
• Usher: Missed chances but optimism taking shape
• Payne: United bounce back against Liverpool

Suarez returned to competitive action for Liverpool in Wednesday's League Cup loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford, following the completion of his ten-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a Premier League match in April.

While in 2011, Suarez was handed an eight-match ban after being found guilty of racially abusing United defender Patrice Evra.

The striker expressed a desire to leave Anfield during a turbulent summer of transfer talk, but Liverpool blocked any notion of a move and also rejected bids from Arsenal. Ayre insisted Suarez has worked hard on improving his character, but maintained the Uruguayan's behaviour has had a negative effect on the club's image.

During a talk at the Sports Industry breakfast in London, Ayre said: "Of course, any types of incident of that nature are damaging to a brand, but Liverpool Football Club is way, way bigger and always will be way bigger than any one player or one individual.

"What is important at those times is to ensure that we act respectfully and professionally as a football club.

"In the past we got some of that wrong and I'd say more recently we got that right.

"Luis is a footballer, sort of a street fighter, a larger than life character and we have seen that across not just even the Premier League but across football and other sports.

"Nobody is condoning any bad behaviour, but it is just something you have to deal with.

"He is what he is, is the character he is, and we have to try and harness that."

ESPN FC analyst Steve Nicol -- who won five league titles as a Liverpool player -- went further, saying he believes Suarez is not fully committed to the club following his failed attempt to engineer a move out of Anfield during the summer.

"I don’t think he’s shown any loyalty to Liverpool," Nicol told ESPN. "I think he’s chasing the money, he says he wants Champions League football, but I don’t think so.

"He will not be in Liverpool long, I believe he’ll leave in January if Sturridge continues to score goals. He’ll be missed on the field but as a Red and as former player I think he’s taken the name of Liverpool down a notch."

Following an impressive performance on his return, Suarez insisted he will stay committed and "try his best" for as long as he remains at the club, something Ayre says Liverpool must take credit for.

"We have worked a lot with Luis since the last incident with Ivanovic and he has responded well to that," he said.

"He has been prepared to commit to that sort of work on his character. We saw him back last night and he looks like the good bits of Luis, which is terrorising defenders and we're pleased he is back, pleased he is contributing.

"As we said all along through the summer, we expected him to remain a Liverpool player. He has remained a Liverpool player and we all move on together.

"I saw some of his comments this morning that he was there for the team and wants to help us achieve whatever we can achieve this season."

Ayre also confirmed that Suarez, who last signed a contract with Liverpool in August 2012,  will be offered a new deal at the end of the current season in line with the club's policy.

He said: "We begin those type of discussions two years in from the end, so it'll be the end of this season. We'll do the same with everyone and at the right time we'll have the discussion with Luis and his advisors."

Kenny Dalglish, who signed Suarez for Liverpool in January 2011, responded with some surprise to the accusation that his recruit had damaged the club.

Asked about the comments by Ayre, Dalglish said: "He'd know better than anybody. He is entitled to make the statements that he wants to make.

"I don't know much about the commercial world of football, and how it would damage, or whether it would help or hinder."

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Dalglish added: "I would have thought the greatest thing that helps or hinders your brand is results. And also there's got to the feel-good factor and the behavioural factor in and around the club, but I wouldn't know if what Luis has done has affected Liverpool in any way, shape or form.

"Ian Ayre is more learned than myself and if Luis has done that and it has affected the brand then I'm sure Luis would be disappointed also."

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