Brendan Rodgers wants to build a Liverpool team for the long term around a “mature” Luis Suarez.
The club have taken the first steps towards extending the Uruguay striker’s current deal, which runs until June 2016. Managing director Ian Ayre met with Suarez’s agent, Pere Guardiola, in Barcelona on Tuesday to open talks over a new contract, although no offer has been made at this stage.
Rodgers was reluctant to discuss the prospect of a deal for Suarez at a news conference on Thursday, saying contract talks were “private,” but it would represent a remarkable rehabilitation for the 26-year-old, who looked set to leave Anfield during the summer after collecting a 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic and then declaring publicly that he wanted a transfer.
On the prospect of a contract, Rodgers said: “I don’t think there’s any rush on that at the moment, but of course he’s a player who we would want to keep here and build a team around over the coming years.”
With captain Steven Gerrard injured and deputy Daniel Agger out of favour, Suarez led Liverpool as they won 5-0 at Tottenham in the Premier League last Sunday.
That win moved Liverpool back up to second in the table, two points behind leaders Arsenal, ahead of Saturday’s home game against Cardiff.
Rodgers said he never had any doubts about giving the captaincy to Suarez, who was named Player of the Year at the Football Supporters' Federation Awards on Monday.
“Whenever you’re choosing a captain for a team or a club, you always analyse lots of things that happen on and off the field, but we all make mistakes,” he said. “And you’d hate to think that you’d be punished for a lifetime because of that.
“This is a guy who has made a mistake, and I think what he’s shown is that he’s a learner in his response to that. I think the award from the supporters as the Player of the Year is a great redemption for what’s happened in the past.
“I know him well enough. He’s a great player, he’s a good man and with Stevie absent and Daniel not in the team, I couldn’t have thought have anyone better to lead the team than Luis Suarez.”
The striker has been a controversial figure throughout his time at Anfield, collecting an eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra during a Premier League game against Manchester United in October 2011.
But following the suspension for biting Ivanovic and the public declarations that he wanted to leave, Suarez has knuckled down and grown up, according to his manager.
Rodgers said: “It’s part of life that you mature, and I think the ban hit him really hard. He’s a player every manager in the world would want in their team for his determination and quality, but I’ve got to know him as a human being as well, and I know that a lot of the things that have been written and said about him couldn’t be further from the truth.
“He’s a really, really humble man, who just has this unique desire to win games, and we see that week in, week out. If you judge him on his football, he’s up there with the world’s best. Of course he’s had his difficult moments, and we’ve had difficult moments with him, but he’s a great guy and he’s really coming to the fore in this period for us. He’s been outstanding.”