Brendan Rodgers has said he would understand "100%" if Luis Suárez wanted to quit English football this summer having been given a 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic.
The Liverpool striker is considering his future not only at Anfield but in the English game having been left distraught by the penalty issued by an independent regulatory commission. Suárez feels he has been victimised by the Football Association and, for the first time in a Liverpool career plagued by controversy, there is concern inside the club that the Uruguay international will be open to offers from clubs such as Bayern Munich, Atlético Madrid and Juventus.
Worryingly for Liverpool, Rodgers was unable to allay those fears at a remarkable press conference on Thursday when he insisted Suárez's persecution complex was justified. The club's manager has spoken to the 26-year-old since the 10-match suspension was announced and insisted he is as close to Suárez "as probably anyone at the football club". But, while hopeful that Suárez's anger and disillusionment are an emotional reaction to the punishment and will fade "once reality kicks in", Rodgers admitted he would empathise if the striker felt he could not continue his career in England.
"Yes, I do understand, 100%," Rodgers said. "This is a guy who I see on a daily basis trying very hard. His two passions in life are his family and Liverpool Football Club. He throws his life into that. It is part of his make-up – you can't change that – but I genuinely think he is trying to adapt those traits he has grown up with as a kid to life and the culture here. Each time he makes a step forward we find ways to beat him with a stick and beat him down. I can understand if he felt like that [wanting to quit England] in a moment of reflection."
Suárez had stated a desire to stay with Liverpool, even in the absence of European football next season, before Wednesday's decision. Rodgers said: "He loves this country and being here. If I'm Luis Suárez sitting at home with my wife and family, who absolutely love it here – they love life in Liverpool and learning the language – it's arguable I will ever have a better season than he has had this. Yet he has still come under this scrutiny and criticism.
"That will make you think, no question. But in a couple of days' time when he is more reflective, because there is a shock and anger at the moment, a sense of reality will set in. Once he feels the support he has from the management and the club it will make him think differently. But at this moment he will feel really low because of the sanctions on his action."
Rodgers has been in regular contact with Suárez's agent, Pere Guardiola, brother of the impending Bayern Munich coach Pep, since the striker bit the Chelsea defender at Anfield on Sunday. Liverpool rebuked their leading goalscorer for the incident but Rodgers said that support for the striker, publicly and psychologically, was the priority.
"I've had a lot of discussions with Pere Guardiola over the last few days that have been very strong," he said. "They have been very happy and pleased with what the club has done not only to protect the player but to support the player. But also to understand that he needs help."
Suárez's decision will have a huge impact on Liverpool's transfer strategy this summer but, despite the uncertainty, Rodgers insists he has given no consideration to the 30-goal striker leaving.
"We will plan with Luis being here. There is no other thought in my mind. The plans for the summer are very simple: we need to improve the quality in our team and will be looking to bring in players that can add to what we've already got. And Luis is very much a player I believe will be here.
"I'm not thinking of that [Suárez asking to leave]. I've got a relationship with Luis that is probably as close as with anyone at the club. We speak on a daily basis. He knows that my door is open first and foremost to help him as a human being. I can guide him, like I've done this year, and will tell him when he's done wrong. And I'll encourage him when he's shown the willingness to improve. I can't worry about that. I can only worry about keeping us improving."