Suarez deal cements Liverpool’s return to the elite

The striker has committed his “long-term” future to the club, just months after publicly declaring his desire to leave, with the Reds now able to focus on a title challenge

By James Goldman

Regardless of the intricacies of the deal, the small print or how much faith you place in the platitudes he has offered the club’s fans, Luis Suarez’s decision to sign a new contract confirms Liverpool’s status as an elite Premier League force once again.

Not even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans could have imagined that when Ian Ayre jetted off for talks with the Uruguayan’s agent Pere Guariola earlier this week that such a swift, decisive and uplifting resolution would be reached.

While their rivals down the East Lancs Road struggle to convince their two remaining genuine world class talents, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, that the David Moyes regime is worth committing the remainder of their peak years to, Liverpool have cemented the services of the Premier League’s box office draw without the need for a very public and prolonged game of cat and mouse.

Whether Real Madrid, who had already been readying a weighty offer for the mercurial striker in January, will return after the World Cup with a “too good to turn down” offer of Gareth Bale-esque proportions in the summer matters little at this stage – that is tomorrow’s potential headache.

As of now, Liverpool are two points off the summit and will lead the table at Christmas should results fall their way and they continue to do what they have done for the majority of the season – brush aside the league’s makeweights with the minimum of fuss and no small measure of style.

That the club can now head into the festive period without doubts hovering over their star attraction’s immediate, if not long-term, future represents a victory for Suarez’s team-mates, his manager and the Fenway Sports Group who fought so admirably in the summer to ignore his desire to quit Anfield, burning any bridge that stood in his way .

At the very least, five more months of Suarez will calcify Liverpool’s challenge for what would be a first top four finish in the Premier League since 2009 and the galvanising effect for a club already riding the crest of a wave prompted by their most authoritative away performance in years – the 5-0 win at White Hart Lane last weekend –  could even prompt the most unlikely of title challenges.

Fanciful perhaps, but seasons and indeed titles have been swung on lesser events. Brendan Rodgers’ penchant for self-praise might grate on some, but there is no doubting he deserves immense credit for fielding the various Suarez-induced storms he has dealt with during his relatively short time on Anfield.

Aside from apparently mastering the delicate balancing act that is managing Suarez the person, something that proved so spectacularly beyond Kenny Dalglish’s dwindling powers, Rodgers has overseen the former Ajax star’s development from spellbinding but erratic striker to the most captivating and deadly assassin in the Premier League.

That Liverpool can now boast the considerable talents of Suarez and a manager who has transformed the side from a rag-taggle collection of directionless players into an eminently watchable, cohesive and potent unit, suggests brighter times are on the horizon.

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