Lack of top tier football real issue for Suarez


There is a time for Liverpool to worry about Luis Suarez and now, with more controversy, fresh allegations of cheating and the justifiable anger of a non-league club swirling around the Uruguay international, is not it.

Brendan Rodgers called it “vilification” when Suarez was condemned for diving against Stoke in October while Robert Huth’s stamp on the striker went unnoticed. He will not have changed his mind having been grilled over the handball that enabled Suarez to score the ultimately decisive goal in the FA Cup against Mansfield on Sunday.

The Liverpool manager may find the lines of inquiry tiring but he knows it is not controversy that could drive Suarez away from Anfield. The absence of Champions League football, however, could. Sunday’s visit to Old Trafford represents far more to Liverpool than a handshake between their leading goalscorer and Patrice Evra.

“Every player and every coach wants to operate at the highest level but Luis is obviously happy here and that is the most important thing,” said Rodgers. “It is okay wanting to be in the Champions League but if you are not happy in your work that is a problem.

Signs of progress

“ If Luis didn’t think he was going to be in the Champions League with Liverpool he wouldn’t have signed in the summer. I think the senior players see the signs of progress here and that is important. Once you’ve got that then players will continue to fight for the club.”

ESPN have defended their decision to apologise and hold talks with commentator Jon Champion after he labelled Suarez a “cheat” in the wake of the striker’s controversial goal. The fall-out from Sunday’s tie continued with Mansfield owner John Radford claiming Suarez embarrassed Liverpool’s directors and the manager at Field Mill.

The broadcaster made the unusual move of issuing a statement implying Champion had erred in criticising Suarez after the 25-year-old controlled the ball with his right hand during their live coverage of the tie.

After Suarez put the ball in the net for Liverpool’s second goal Champion said the Uruguayan had scored by “illegal, nefarious means” and, after viewing the replay, declared: “That, I’m afraid, is the work of a cheat.”

Inquiries from viewers

It is understood ESPN, who are in the third year of a four-year deal to show 25 live FA Cup matches per season, had not been contacted by Suarez or Liverpool but decided to act after a string of inquiries from viewers, Liverpool bloggers and the media.

The club were aggrieved by Champion’s comments but had no plans to take it any further. ESPN have apologised for any offence caused.

Meanwhile, the uncertainty surrounding Frank Lampard’s future at Chelsea appears to be over after the player’s agent said the midfielder would “in no circumstances” be offered a fresh contract to stay beyond this season.

Steve Kutner’s assertion comes after reports emerged following Chelsea’s 5-1 FA Cup victory over Southampton on Saturday the Stamford Bridge hierarchy had changed their long-held stance and decided to try to keep the 34-year-old for another year at least, possibly by agreeing a deal that would see the player take a reduction in his €185,000-a-week-salary. But that, according to Kutner, is definitely not the case.

“Chelsea executives told Frank in Japan during the Club World Cup, then again reconfirmed with me after the Everton victory , that in no circumstances will he be offered a new contract to stay at the club after the end of this season,” said Kutner.

“Nothing since has changed in any respect. Frank has had to accept that and just wants to carry on playing football for Chelsea so as to finish the season as successfully as possible for the club that he loves.”

Guardian Service

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