Liverpool Back Naughty Boy Suarez

The Liverpool managing director, Ian Ayre, has compared Luis Suárez’s rehabilitation during his 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic to teaching a “naughty kid the error of his ways”, confirming the club are confident that contract negotiations with the Uruguayan over a new deal will commence next summer.

Suárez returned to first-team action on Wednesday night in the Capital One Cup following a lengthy suspension handed out by the Football Association, and the forward has three years remaining on his existing contract despite pleading with the club to let him leave last month.

Ayre revealed the 26-year-old has responded well to “work on his character” since his indiscretion with Ivanovic during a Premier League match against Chelsea in April, having also received an eight-match ban in 2011 after the FA found him guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.

The Liverpool managing director conceded that Suárez’s controversial behaviour since joining from Ajax has done damage to the club’s brand but that the manager, Brendan Rodgers, has been pleased with his commitment to “putting things right”.

“Liverpool Football Club is a huge tradition and any time anyone steps out of line, whether it’s a member of staff, a player or a fan, that’s always going to be an issue,” Ayre said on Thursday at the Nolan Partners Sport Industry Breakfast Club. “When your kids are naughty you tell them off and you try to teach them the error of their ways and it’s no different.

“I’m not saying Luis has made a huge, damaging impact but every time you have a negative issue like that particular one [the Ivanovic incident], then of course it’s damaging but the important thing is to put it right and restore the integrity of the football club. I believe that’s what we did.

Brendan did most of the one-to-one with Luis. Luis responded excellently to that, he worked with us and was supportive of the process that we went through. That says a lot about his rehabilitation and his admission about what went on and his commitment to putting things right.

“We’re all very pleased that he’s back in a Liverpool shirt playing for Liverpool Football Club. Anyone who watched the 90 minutes [against Manchester United] would see that for someone who was coming back for his first game he was back terrorising defenders.”

On the possibility of a new deal, Ayre told Sky Sports: “We begin those type of discussions two years in from the end [of a player’s contract], so it’ll be the end of this season. We’ll do the same with everyone and at the right time we’ll have the discussion with Luis and his advisers.”

Arsenal submitted a £40,000,001 bid for Suárez during the summer but despite the offer, and confusion over a release clause in the player’s contract, Ayre said there was never any doubt that he would remain at the club beyond August.

Suárez urged Liverpool not to renege on a promise made the previous year that he would be allowed to leave, telling the Guardian “all I want is for Liverpool to honour our agreement”. However, Ayre says the club were always confident of keeping him.

“We were pretty steadfast during the summer that it wasn’t our intention to sell him. I don’t think it was a huge piece of work for Liverpool, we just stuck by the contract that we signed with him a year before, which is a four-year deal, and said we’d like him to remain with us, and he has,” said Ayre.

“It’s pretty easy to manage, you have a contract of employment and, unless you have an appetite to change that, then you stand by the contract. Luis stood by the contract as well, as much as he may not have commented on anything. At the end of the day he has stayed … and is committed to turning out for Liverpool.”

Suárez, who was banned for seven matches in 2010 whilst playing for Ajax after biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal, is in line for a return to Premier League action this weekend when Liverpool play Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Meanwhile Ayre revealed that Liverpool’s plans to redevelop Anfield into a stadium with a capacity close to 60,000 are near completion, with only a handful of properties that would be affected by the process yet to be purchased by Liverpool City Council.

A survey earlier this month showed that more than 80% of people living and working in the Anfield area were in favour of the £260m regeneration, with Ayre confirming that the conclusion of negotiations was “reasonably imminent”.

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