Liverpool squad ‘surprised’ by title challenge: Luis Suarez
League’s top scorer says future is bright at Anfield thanks to young talent coming through
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez (right) celebrates Raheem Sterling’s second against Norwich at Carrow Road last weekend. Photograph: Chris Radburn / PA Wire
Luis Suarez has admitted Liverpool are punching above their weight to be competing for the title against big-spending clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City and acknowledged that this season has surpassed all of his expectations.
After a season that began with him completing a 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic and having a transfer request rejected, the Uruguayan goes into Sunday’s crucial meeting with Chelsea at Anfield as the favourite to win the Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year at Monday’s ceremony in London, having scored 30 league goals with three matches still to play. Brendan Rodgers’s side are five points ahead of Chelsea with three games to go, with City a point further back but with a game in hand.
Both clubs have a wage bill which dwarfs the resources available to Rodgers and Suarez believes that would make their achievement even more remarkable if they were to end the club’s 24-year wait for a league title.
“(Winning the title) would be something that no one would believe,” he said. “Because we have good players but if you look at the complete roster, we don’t have (the players) to be up there. The truth is that we are surprised ourselves at how well we’re playing.
“We have good players who are demonstrating why they are in Liverpool and it would be something amazing even to England because of the investment made by Chelsea, (Manchester) City and Arsenal.Even Tottenham have spent over €120m and we, with so little investment, are in that position. It would be incredible.”
Suarez was the subject of a £40m-plus £1 bid from Arsenal in the summer which it was believed would trigger a release clause in his contract before he was eventually persuaded to stay at Anfield.
The 27-year-old has since signed an improved deal after his blistering start to the season and will now compete with team-mates Daniel Sturridge and captain Steven Gerrard plus Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, Eden Hazard of Chelsea and Southampton’s Adam Lallana for English football’s most prestigious individual award.
He singled out Gerrard for special praise for the manner he was treated by the England captain during his difficult start to the season. “He helped me during the summer and I have only words of gratitude for all he did and he will be always present as an important person in my football career,” Suarez said.
“It is clear that, as a player, everyone in the world knows what he is. He brings a lot to the group and really is a true skipper in every way.
“He always respects others’ decisions because, despite being the captain and having been at the club for more than 15 years, his word is not greater than any other one. He respects others’ decisions and that’s how good he is – also as a person off the pitch, as a friend, he has proved a lot during all that I experienced.”
Sturridge could be fit to face his former club on Sunday having missed last week’s 3-2 victory over Norwich which equalled the club record of 11 in succession. At a question-and-answer session at a sponsor’s event, the England striker revealed that he is in contention to play at Anfield but does not know if he will be risked by Rodgers. “I’m not too sure if he’ll play me or not,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”
The 24-year-old has formed a devastating partnership with Suarez since moving from Stamford Bridge last January and has scored 20 goals in a season for the first time in his career. Liverpool are already guaranteed a Champions League spot for the first time since the 2009-10 season and announced proposals to expand Anfield’s capacity close to the 60,000 mark on Wednesday.
With the emergence of several exciting young players including the 19-year-old forward Raheem Sterling and the backing of the American owner John W Henry, Suarez now believes Liverpool could have some exciting years ahead.
“Yes, there is a lot of potential,” he said. “There are very young players such as Sturridge, (Philippe) Coutinho, Luis Alberto who hasn’t played much, Joe Allen, (Jon) Flanagan.
“All of them are young players who are in a good team; they have played a lot this year and, with a couple of good players who could bring experience to the team with their European experience, it could help us.”