Steven Gerrard has admitted that he thought Luis Suarez had played his last game for Liverpool. But after the striker's triumphant Premier League return with two goals at Sunderland on Sunday, the Liverpool captain believes the Uruguayan's enduring presence gives the club a chance of returning to the Champions League.
Gerrard was among those who pleaded with Suarez to stay, despite intense interest in the player from Arsenal. Now that Liverpool are in second place in the Premier League after six matches, Gerrard says Liverpool are buoyed by having the 26-year-old back in the team. Asked if he thought he had played his last game alongside Suarez, Gerrard said:
"Every day in the summer. When you have a player as good as Luis Suarez, you know that the big clubs are going to want him. I was waking up every morning, hoping that nothing would happen and that he would still be here.
"Nobody tried harder than me to make him stay and he knows exactly what I think of him. I knew if we could keep him here, the better our chances would be. He is a special type of footballer and he gives us something different. When the club got the message to him that they were not going to sell him, he got his head down and has worked hard. He has never given us a moment's problem.
"I think it is a credit to Luis for the way he has come back. A lot of players who have been in his position might have come back and spat the dummy out, not trying for the team. But he is not that type of guy. He realised that the club wanted to keep him and he has respected their decision." With Liverpool in their highest league position for 17 years after this many games, Gerrard believes rivals will be taking the Anfield challenge seriously.
"Everyone is taking points off one another and I'm sure other teams are taking note that we are a threat," Gerrard said. "But I'm not too bothered about what people are saying about us. I know what this team is capable of. The main thing for us is to keep fighting and show we are capable of staying in these positions to around Christmas and then we will see where that takes us."