Luis Suárez has said he made a conscious effort to return from suspension a calmer player as he did not want to "be the same as before".
The Liverpool striker has slipped seamlessly into Brendan Rodgers's team since completing a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in April, rediscovering a rapport with Daniel Sturridge in attack and scoring three goals in two Premier League appearances. Liverpool offered Suárez psychological support during his second lengthy suspension from their team and, speaking on his return to Uruguay, the 26-year-old admitted he is benefiting from a more considered approach to games.
"I am aware that in recent matches that I played I've been calmer," he is reported as saying in the Uruguayan newspaper El País. "I am very self-critical and I realised that playing well, with more tranquility, is helping me a lot. I realise and I prefer to continue and not be the same as before."
Suárez was speaking on arrival at Montevideo airport, before the World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Argentina that will have a major bearing on whether Uruguay secure automatic qualification for next summer's tournament. He claimed Liverpool supporters and Steven Gerrard helped convince him to remain at Anfield this summer, with the captain frequently advising against a move to Arsenal, although Suárez of course had no choice but to stay after the club refused to consider offers for their leading striker.
Gerrard recently said he woke up every morning this summer fearing Suárez would leave and the Uruguay international said: "I do not know if he prayed but what he said is what he feels because he was talking to me all the time. Gerrard, for me, is a legend in Liverpool and a great team-mate that helped me a lot.
"His attitude was an extra boost for me to take the decision to stay in Liverpool; both he and the fans of Liverpool influenced much of that. I admire him for the great player he is worldwide. For me, he will always be a benchmark and at club level he is the best player I have played with in my career, as a person and as a footballer."
Suárez made his first competitive appearance at Anfield since the Ivanovic incident when he faced Crystal Palace on Saturday and before kick-off asked Liverpool's official photographer to take a picture of himself with new-born son Benjamin and daughter Delfina. But there was a hitch before the Suárez family moment, he revealed.
"In England it is not common and the first club people told me I was not going to go with them but I told them that my children were going to come with me [on to the pitch], like it or not," he said. "They understood in the end and it was a nice moment, a unique moment for me. They [his family] make me think hard and calm me. Nowadays I think a lot of them when I'm on the field."