Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits handling the summer transfer saga of Luis Suarez made him a better boss.
In a week when England’s cricket team sought to deal with their ‘problem’ player by sacking Kevin Pietersen, Rodgers spoke of the importance of man-management in the modern game.
There seemed little prospect of Suarez remaining at Anfield once he got a sniff of interest from Saturday’s opponents Arsenal and he quickly went public with his thoughts, claiming the Reds reneged on a deal to allow him to join a Champions League club.
The Gunners’ £40million plus £1 bid - made in the mistaken belief it would trigger a get-out clause - was forcefully rebuffed by Liverpool’s principal owner John W Henry and the upshot was that Suarez was banished from the first-team training group.
However, just over a week later his exile was ended and the turnaround was completed when he signed a new four-year deal in December.
Suarez’s 23 league goals this season have fired Liverpool into top-four contention and Rodgers believes a little understanding of the player’s position went a long way to recovering a seemingly lost situation.
“I knew first and foremost the human qualities of Luis,” said Rodgers.
“He is a good man. He is a very generous human being and I have found him very amicable in everything I have spoken with him on.
“Yes it made me a better manager because it is a problem which you don’t get as a scenario when you are doing your coaching badges and how you deal with it can make you,” he added.
“But we had to protect the club and hopefully sell to him this was still the place for him to play at that level.
“If you are at that level in the Champions League... there are not too many better places than being at Anfield on a Champions League night.”
Suarez and Sturridge represent Liverpool’s best chance of not only beating Arsenal but securing Champions League football.
And Rodgers said: “You have to find a way to get your best players in the team but ultimately for me if it didn’t work I wouldn’t play both together because what we are building here is a successful team.
“As long as the two of them can play together and it doesn’t affect the balance of the team then I will always work to find that way.”