Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard urged team-mate Luis Suarez to “give it one more year” at Anfield, as the furore of the Uruguayan’s future continues to dominate headlines.
Suarez and his advisers have spent the last few days claiming they were permitted to talk to Arsenal after the Gunner bid a solitary pound over £40m for the striker, believing the fee had activated a release clause in the unsettled 26-year-old’s Anfield contract.
However, Liverpool have held firm in the belief they do not have to sell their star asset and now Reds skipper Gerrard has urged the forward, he describes as “the best player I’ve played with”, to refocus on helping his current employers target a Champions League return next season.
“Luis is the best footballer I’ve ever played with and alongside Gareth Bale, Luis is the third best player in the world after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the moment,” says Gerrard in a Daily Telegraph interview.
“When you’re in that position, you’re going to get all kinds of teams wanting to pull you away, especially when you are at a club not in the Champions League.
“Knowing the guy as I do that’s probably the thing on his mind: wanting to be in the Champions League and I’d say to him: ‘Give it one more year, see if we can achieve that’.”
Gerrard went on to echo the views of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and Anfield legend John Aldridge by questioning why Suarez would want to join Arsenal, as he offered a stout case for his club's position.
“I don’t think Arsenal is a step up,” stressed Gerrard. “Us, Arsenal and Tottenham are fighting for one of the Champions League places. In an ideal scenario we keep Suarez, make one or two more signings and Tottenham lose Bale.
“I don’t want to disrespect Arsenal. They’re a wonderful club with a manager who I’ve an awful amount of respect for and they have talented players throughout the team but so have we. We’ve got just as good a chance of achieving things as Arsenal have.
“We need that one exciting marquee signing who can play in one of the attacking positions (working with Suarez). That’s why we are talking along the lines of keeping Luis because if the club lose Luis we take a step backwards. He’s the best footballer I’ve ever played with.
“Internationally, (Wayne) Rooney, (Paul) Scholes, (Frank) Lampard are all top players. John Terry and Rio Ferdinand at the back, all world-class footballers. Suarez is on a different planet to most footballers.”
Gerrard’s Liverpool legend will be celebrated in a testimonial match at Anfield this weekend, with the £1 million proceeds from the game against Olympiacos all being donated to charity.
“It’s gone in a blur,” reflects Gerrard of his lengthy Liverpool career that started back in November 1998. “It’s been a journey full of highs and lows. I’ve got loads of regrets with Liverpool: the Champions League final in 2007, the 2012 FA Cup final against Chelsea, an own goal against Chelsea in the 2005 Carling Cup final.
“But the bad memories help you strive for good times. I’m totally proud of the career I’ve had so far.
“I cherish every moment. I know sooner rather than later I’ll be sitting here, and my boots will be hung up, and I won’t be going on a football pitch again. It does scare me because I love it so much. I’m more hungry now. I’ve got more of a buzz for this coming season than I’ve had before. I realise there will not be many left.”