The season nearing its end brings with it inevitable questions over what comes next. Even when one's club is busy trying to secure a top four return after five years in the wilderness; even when an unexpected title challenge, unlikely yet tantalisingly possible, is in the works. Even for a Liverpool side such as this one, mostly worried just about the next game and with ten games still to go, it is inevitable that people will start to ask questions about the future.
One of the biggest question marks in Liverpool's future remains Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan striker who agitated for a move last summer only for the club to push back hard, forcing him to remain for at least another year. So far, staying has worked out brilliantly for both Suarez and Liverpool, and when Suarez talks about enjoying his time at Anfield and appreciating the support he has received, it's entirely likely he's being genuine.
Yet for most, there remains an expectation that Suarez' future likely lies elsewhere. After the events of last year, it's nearly impossible to think otherwise. And so fans who struggled to keep hold of their sanity through last summer's circus of come get me pleas aimed in the direction of Real Madrid and £40M and a pound offers from Arsenal are likely already bracing themselves for another messy summer. Suarez, though, says not to worry.
"I think so," Suarez told FourFourTwo magazine when asked if he would stick around for another season even if Liverpool failed to land the top four finish that would return the club to Europe's top club competition for the first time since 2009. "I signed my new contract because I’m very happy here and I want to stay where I’m enjoying football and life. Playing in the Champions League isn’t dependent on that."
Of course, Suarez said much the same last year, insisting his future was at Liverpool even as the club stumbled towards seventh. Then everything went pear shaped as the striker gnawed on Branislav Ivanovic's arm and spent the summer angling for a move away with an ever shifting set of criteria. And of course, this time around, it seems highly unlikely Suarez' suggestion he's willing to stay even without the Champions League will be put to the test.
"I’d actually prefer not to win this Golden Boot and for Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League this season," he added, though at this stage it would be nearly as difficult for Suarez to miss out on the Golden Boot as it would be for Liverpool not to make the top four. "Any player would miss the Champions League. We’ve not been good enough since I’ve been here to qualify, but this could definitely be our year."
Still, for all the doubts that inevitably surround any discussion of Suarez—doubts created by the striker's past misbehaviours—it's hard not to increasingly see the Uruguayan as a changed man on the pitch; a more mature player. Not only is Suarez playing the best football of his career, but increasingly he appears comfortable in his situation and less prone to the sort of outbursts that marked his time with Ajax and his first few seasons at Liverpool.
"This is my best season yet," said Saurez. "I feel in a very good place, physically and mentally. Every day, I feel better in this club. I hope to continue down this path because we want Champions League football for Liverpool and, personally speaking, I want to continue that mentality throughout the World Cup with Uruguay."
He's certainly gone a long way towards proving himself a changed player this season, displaying maturity along with playing the best football of his career, yet it's difficult to completely banish the doubts and questions. A few more months of saying and doing the right things, though, followed by an incident free summer, and Liverpool fans might just about be ready to start packing them away.