Liverpool make emotional plea to Suarez on Gerrard's special afternoon

The midfielder took advantage of an outpouring of Anfield joy to try to convince the Uruguay striker that he should follow his lead and spurn the advances of Europe's best clubs
By Tom Maston at Anfield

On a day when Steven Gerrard’s career was celebrated and Liverpool legends Robbie Fowler and Jamie Carragher returned to Anfield, it was telling that arguably the largest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for Luis Suarez.

Making his first appearance in front of the Kop since his infamous biting of Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April, the controversial striker was roundly applauded by the Liverpool faithful despite insisting on numerous occasions throughout the summer that he wants to leave the club.

Liverpool's opening fixtures
Aug 17
Stoke City (h)
Aug 24
Aston Villa (a)
Sep 1
Manchester United (h)
Sep 16
Swansea City (a)
Sep 21
Southampton (h)
Reports of legal action if he is not allowed to depart only add to the worries of the Liverpool faithful, and it was with a sense of trepidation, as manager Brendan Rodgers put it, that the striker stepped onto the turf for what could be the last time for the home team.

What followed was a rousing reception as the 44,362 inside Anfield, almost to a man, began making their plea for last season's top club goalscorer to stay.

Rodgers has repeatedly stated that he wants to keep Suarez, and he believes the fans' show of support will appeal to the striker.

"He was probably humbled by it," he said. "There may have been that bit of trepidation about the reaction he would get.

"But people who have been at this club a lot longer than me know this is the Liverpool way. They always respect people and always respect their own.

"Luis is still very much part of what we are doing here. That was the message from them, they love him. We all love him - manager, players, supporters."

Gerrard also made his play, taking advantage of the emotional crowd to encourage his team-mate to follow his lead and reject offers from Europe's top clubs.

"I had a chance to move to a Champions League club last year, but there was no temptation. I have been through that enough before – and that is the message for Luis," Gerrard told reporters.

"He will get many more chances to move on, if that's what he wants to do further down the line. I just think a player of his level and quality should wait for the big ones to come.

"Luis deserves to maybe play in one of the best teams in world football, in Barcelona and Madrid, and they will come calling for him again.

"So I am hoping, from a biased point of view, that he stays for another year and shows the form he did last year ... which could help take Liverpool to that level.

"Then, maybe, it will be time for him to go next year or the year after, but I really don't think it is the right time for him to go just yet."

10/1 Liverpool are 10/1 with Bet365 to win the FA Cup next season
Gerrard's liberal use of logic - encouraging a top player to stay with a middling side to which he has no childhood affiliation - is understandable from a Liverpool perspective, but might even serve to push Suarez further away; the Uruguayan clearly feels he has outgrown the club and its often parochial attitude.

Of course, despite the huge statement of faith from those who pay his wages, there was little acknowledgement from the man himself. While Gerrard, Carragher and Fowler made sure there was applause at every corner of the famous old ground, Suarez instead kept his head focused solely on the game.

Whether that is taken as good professionalism in a crucial pre-season friendly or a sign of embarrassment at the situation he finds himself in is one for the body-language experts to analyse.

If the cheer that met Suarez was more out of desperation for him to stay, then those that greeted almost every touch Gerrard had were certainly of admiration for the England captain.

The response to Suarez will grab the headlines, but this was still Gerrard’s day. Walking onto the pitch between a guard of honour with his three young daughters was a special moment for all connected with this great club, though there was no fitting end to the day as he failed to get his name on the scoresheet.

A Gerrard goal, after all, was why Olympiakos were chosen as opponents. Not a club to pass up an opportunity to reminisce, Liverpool chose the Greek side due to Gerrard's barnstorming goal that sent them into the Champions League knock-out stages in 2005.

With that memory fresh in the mind, the midfielder's claims that Suarez should wait a couple of years to taste magical European nights rings hollow.

Suarez clearly feels he has outgrown the club, and his willingness to move to Arsenal has underlined that he is in no mood to wait for Champions League football any longer. But the Liverpool faithful, quite literally in this case, have shown they have enough patience to go around.