Following Wednesday disappointing loss to Manchester United, while most fans were asking questions about team selection and why manager Brendan Rodgers started the clearly tired and injured over players he brought in to provide depth over the summer, those further afield were more focused on Luis Suarez. And managing director Ian Ayre was more than happy to talk openly about the controversial striker's return and possible future at the club.
"Of course, any types of incident of that nature are damaging to a brand," Ayre told Sky Sports News in an interview following the match, "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 we act respectfully and professionally as a football club. In the past, we got some of that wrong, [though] I'd say more recently we got that right.
"Luis is a street fighter, a larger than life character, and we have had to deal with it. Nobody is condoning his behaviour, but it is just something you have to deal with. We've worked a lot with him since the Ivanovic incident and he's back to what he's best at. We all move on together. Hard work and lessons have been learnt and we now have a process in place for any crisis. Not a Suarez crisis, just any one."
Despite the problems Suarez has caused Liverpool—a series of incidents and controversies stretching back nearly to the moment he arrived at the club—Ayre was quick to praise the striker's commitment to working hard in practice so that he would be ready to go when his latest ban ended.
"He's been committed," said Ayre. "He's worked hard, trained hard. It's been difficult, and been difficult for him really. It's always difficult being a footballer, and being a footballer like Luis Suarez you want to be on a football pitch. I think it's been a challenge for him but he's got through it and I think, for a first game back, for somebody who hasn't had the opportunity to play in the Premier League this season, he acquitted himself very well."
The managing director also suggested, in what will seem a rather unexpected twist for many following a contentious summer that saw Saurez openly agitate for a move first to Real Madrid and then to just about anywhere that wasn't Liverpool, that the club would look to begin contract negotiations before the season's end:
"We [look to] 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."
Few will expect any such discussions to go anywhere, though if Liverpool remain in the hunt for a Champions League berth come the final months of the season then anything might be possible. Still, most will take Ayre's words as being largely for show, and the safer money will be on Suarez departing in January than on his signing a new deal in April or May.
More from The Liverpool Offside:
- Rodgers And Out
- Manchester United 1, Liverpool 0: Hernandez Goal the Difference
- Antipathy For The Devils
- Rodgers Confident of Suarez Commitment
- Where Can Suarez and Liverpool Go from Here?