ESPN FC Extra Time
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists he has no fears that Luis Suarez has damaged the club’s brand.
Suarez has been involved in a number of controversies since moving to Anfield from Ajax in January 2011 -- and has only just returned from a ten-match ban imposed for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in April.
Managing director Ian Ayre acknowledged on Thursday that "any types of incident of that nature are damaging to a brand".
But Rodgers believes that Suarez can be a positive influence for Liverpool again, at the end of an eventful week.
The 26-year-old made his return from suspension in the 1-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Manchester United on Wednesday night, and he became a father for the second time on Thursday as wife Sofia gave birth to a son.
Suarez is set to make his first Premier League appearance since the bite on Ivanovic, when Liverpool visit Sunderland on Sunday.
And Rodgers has defended both Suarez -- and the comments made by Ayre. The manager said: "I’ve seen the coverage of it, and it was very, very unfair on Ian, with all due respect, because he wasn’t talking about Luis Suarez -- he was talking more about the coverage as a whole.
"It’s all behind us. We really need to focus on the now, and the future. The most important thing is that he’s available. I don’t think anyone wants to keep regurgitating that stuff all the time.
"It’s something that’s very much in the past. Ian’s comments were very much about the coverage it had generated. So we’re looking forward, and that’s my only interest as a manager."
Suarez has remained at Anfield following a summer stand-off, in which he gave a series of interviews declaring he wanted to leave -- while Liverpool insisted they would not sell him.
The striker’s contract runs until 2016, but Rodgers insists there is no rush to open talks over an extension.
Rodgers said: "He’s still got a few years to go yet, Luis, so that’s something the club will take up at the right time with his representative.
"At the moment, his only focus is on his playing. I thought he was terrific the other night, considering he had been out for such a long time, and I think you saw the threat he posed. And he’s only going to get better."
Daniel Sturridge has emerged as the main man in Liverpool’s attack while Suarez has been absent, scoring in each of the club’s opening three Premier League games this season.
Sturridge scored 11 times in total for Liverpool while Suarez was suspended, but Rodgers insists they can play together.
Rodgers said: "Good players want to play with other good players. I think you will see with how they will perform together that they can be a real threat.
"It is not something that Daniel or anyone else will be worried about, their focus is on the team. It is my job to manage the dynamics and the structure of the team."
Sturridge is still not fully recovered from the ankle injury sustained at the start of this month -- one that forced him to miss England’s two most recent World Cup qualifiers, against Moldova and Ukraine.
But Rodgers said: "There is no taking him out. Even when he is not 100 per cent fit, he is still an amazing player, a player who will put defenders on the back foot.
"He is a player who is very important for our team. He is a catalyst at that top end of the field."