Rodgers: Suarez has made me better
6:48am Friday 16th May 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Brendan Rodgers thanked Luis Suarez for making him a better manager as he collected the Football Writers' Association's Player of the Year award on behalf of the rehabilitated Liverpool striker.
After an exceptional season, the 27-year-old topped the poll of 300-plus journalists ahead of team-mate Steven Gerrard.
Suarez netted 31 goals in a remarkable campaign that not only saw Liverpool come agonisingly close to a first league title in 24 years but saw the striker put the negative headlines of the past behind him.
The Uruguayan received just two votes in last year's FWA poll and has come full circle since serving a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
Suarez, who was also named the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year, was unable to pick up the award on Thursday due to a pre-World Cup break, so Liverpool boss Rodgers instead accepted the award.
"On behalf of Luis and all of Liverpool Football Club's staff, we want to say a big thank you to the Football Writers' Association," he said at the London Lancaster Hotel.
"I think everybody knows the struggles he had in the last year. It has been incredibly difficult for him.
"But rehabilitation is always respected in the country - people who want to change for the better and he is certainly someone that was at a real low point at the end of the last season.
"I know that better than anyone. It was a real, real difficult period for him but he went away and, after a difficult summer, the power of Liverpool and the club that it is convinced him to stay.
"Once we got the season under way, he concentrated on his football and we've had a number of outstanding players this season but Luis Suarez has been incredible."
Rodgers used the speech to thank former manager Kenny Dalglish for signing Suarez, Liverpool's communication team and managing director Ian Ayre.
First and foremost in the Reds boss' praise, though, was Suarez, whose performances this season saw them come so close to the title.
"When I came into Liverpool as manager, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard said to me this was the best player that they had played with," Rodgers added.
"I thought about those two and all the great players they've played with in their career, so I was really interested to see what his play was like close up.
"For me, he has challenged me every day of my life, he's done everything that you would need to do at the top level of the game as a player.
"He is a winner, his determination is unique, he is absolutely relentless. He is someone that trains every single day of his life - he doesn't look for an excuse.
"And what people don't see is that he is a very intelligent man. He is a winner when he crosses the line, but with great intelligence.
"For a young manager like myself coming into a club like Liverpool, I understand the pressures of the club and those pressures include everything that involves managing top players.
"I know for however long I am at Liverpool, whenever I leave I will have become a better manager and a better person because of Luis Suarez and for that I thank him so much."
Suarez was also praised on stage by Football Association chairman Greg Dyke and FWA chairman Andy Dunn of the Sunday Mirror.
"There are some members that remind quite frequently that in the citation for this award that it mentions he is Footballer of the Year by 'precept and by example'," the latter said.
"Now that part of the citation is important, but I do think what better example is there of someone who maybe realised that they did have issues to address on the field of play and has addressed those issues?
"I think Luis Suarez has done that and I think that is why he fulfils that criteria.
"And, of course, there is that bit that says 'Footballer of the Year' and what a footballer he is, what a footballer we've had the privilege to watch, particularly this season."