By JOE BERNSTEIN
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted the club need to give striker Luis Suarez hope of a Champions League challenge if they want to keep him at Anfield beyond the summer.
While Rodgers enjoys a good relationship with Suarez, who has scored 14 times this season, he knows a fourth season without appearing in Europe’s top competition would be hard for the Uruguay striker to take.
Spanish clubs would be interested in the £40million-rated forward, who turns 26 next month. Atletico Madrid will be seeking a replacement for Radamel Falcao at the end of the season, with the Colombian set to move on, while Barcelona need a successor for the ageing David Villa. Suarez’s wife, Sofia, lived in Barcelona after her family moved there from Uruguay.
Liverpool travel to QPR on Sunday in mid-table after defeats against Aston Villa and Stoke in their last three games and Rodgers knows they must climb the table to encourage his big players his ‘project’ will work.
Liverpool have not played in the Champions League for three seasons, after finishing seventh, sixth and eighth in the Premier League.
‘The players need to feel there is hope,’ said Rodgers. ‘I don’t want people who don’t want to be here, but top players like Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger and Luis Suarez have all committed to the cause. They obviously feel there is hope that the model will work.
‘The reality is we’re a team that haven’t been challenging for the last number of years and it is going to need that wee bit of time. I believe we are going down the right route because, if you’re not going to invest as heavily, you have to build.’
Suarez turned down the opportunity to join Juventus last summer and signed a five-year deal at Anfield which carries a reported £40m buy-out clause.
But Rodgers can’t discount his best player leaving if Suarez feels a top-four finish is beyond Liverpool in the foreseeable future.
‘That is something that you can never tell,’ said the Liverpool manager.’