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Rodgers' Reality Check For Suarez

Luis Suarez may be dreaming of Champions League football but Brendan Rodgers has been refreshingly clear in his message to the Uruguayan striker. Barring some monopoly money offer, he's going nowhere, and he owes Liverpool's fans a debt of gratitude and loyalty.

One of the reporters unwisely suggested that Brendan should 'steady'
One of the reporters unwisely suggested that Brendan should 'steady'
Clint Hughes

Brendan Rodgers is playing the media like a jazz flute. There is nothing Burgundyesque about the man's pronouncements, you understand. It's just that his statements to the press in relation to Luis Suarez are to Liverpool fans what free-form jazz is to an enthusiast -- comforting, life-affirming and invigorating. Now, Rodgers has form in this regard. Most of my early commentary on the Northern Irishman centred on him being strikingly good under the intense glare of the camera and the even more intense glower of the assembled hacks.

Yet, as the season began, the manager's enthusiastic effusiveness increased exponentially. A few months of overly exuberant assessments of underwhelming performances started to make most of us pine for the surly reticence of a certain Scottish legend. Rodgers simply did not know when to put a sock in it. Whether it was forecasting top four finishes or claiming Joe Allen's latest non-descript contribution had been outstanding, the Northern Irishman seemed to suffer from a compulsive verbosity. His glass wasn't just half-full, his cup runneth over.

Something changed around half way through the season. Most likely, it was the damage wrought by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -- we all learn to be less ebullient after life has administered a series of bracing kicks to our nether regions. Rodgers learned to, as we say in my part of the world, pull his neck in. His post-match analysis was briefer and no longer refracted through a rose-tinted lens. He was still Brendan; still upbeat and positive, but he had acquired a wary cautiousness that only comes from experience of difficulty and trauma.

The manager had plenty of trauma to deal with, last campaign. Dreadful results, distressing family problems and the frenzied aftermath of Luis Suarez's antics would be enough to shake anyone's resolve, but to his credit Rodgers has retained much of what is admirable about the man. He seems at ease in the role now; his naturally authoritative presence no longer needing to be supplemented by an eager-to-please attitude. It's like he now considers himself worthy of the daunting responsibility of being the manager of Liverpool Football Club, without needing to resort to the kind of sub-Shankly declamations of his early days.

As the question of Luis Suarez's future builds into what tabloids readily label a saga, Rodgers is delightfully sanguine and admirably unflappable. Not for him, the whiny angst of the little-guy whose player is likely to be poached. No, the Liverpool manager has simply reminded Luis Suarez and the wider world of some intractable truths. The player has three years left on a contract he willingly signed with a club whose supporters lionised him, despite having ample reason not to. Rodgers was quick to focus any questions of loyalty away from him and towards the supporters.

"It's not about me or the club," insisted the manager. "I think it's the supporters and his team-mates for what they gave him. What I do is the same for anyone. My success is not just about trophies, although hopefully when I finish my career I will look back on having won things. For me it's about more than that. It's about making people better and supporting them when they need it. Luis doesn't need to show me anything because that's what I do.

"For me it's about the great supporters we have. The backing they have given him has been absolutely brilliant. They have stood by him through thick and thin and through all the traumas he has gone through over the last couple of seasons. If he owes anyone, it's them and his team-mates, who have fought beside him, certainly not me."

Rodgers is at pains to stress that Liverpool's hand will not be forced in this situation and that it is the club and not the player, who are in command.

"I don't want to set a date or put a deadline on it, but this is not something that will run too long, " reassured the boss. "We are totally in control of the situation. It is one where we don't have to sell. He has got three years left on his contract. We are prepared to get some players in and spend money without having to sell Luis Suarez."

Irrespective of how the future pans-out, this really is heartening stuff, and the manager went on to display thinly-veiled derision for Arsenal's bid, telling reporters that it was an amount Liverpool did not "deem worthy of the [Suarez's] talent," whilst reminding the world that Edinson Cavani just moved to PSG for an eye-watering fifty five million pounds and that "Luis is up there in that top bracket of talent." This is really all fans can expect from the club, in such circumstances -- dignified defiance of a system that wants to view a Suarez move as a fait accompli.

Liverpool, says Rodgers, is "one of the giants of the world" and whilst he acknowledges that the club's star has fallen considerably, he is stouthearted in his belief that it is "on it's way back." This no longer sounds like empty PR talk. Rodgers has learned to send messages. His insistence that the club will not be bullied into a sale and his none-too-subtle reminder of it's status in the world of football is designed to maintain dignity and pride in what has become a power-play. His words and demeanour say, 'We are Liverpool Football Club. Do not take us lightly.'

No doubt many will fail to appreciate the subtleties and nuances, but then as I said earlier in the week, some people are only content when spewing bile from their rage-contorted mouths. I feel there has been real progress and development in both the manager and the team in the last eight or nine months. Rodgers has created a comforting concinnity and no amount of Machiavellian machinations on the part of the star striker will be allowed to disrupt that harmony.

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