Brendan Rodgers fears Luis Suárez's efforts to force a move from Liverpool could "sabotage" the club's start to the Premier League season. The Liverpool manager reached tipping point in the Suárez transfer saga on Thursday and announced he will not answer further questions about the errant forward until late September, when the 26-year-old will have served a 10-match suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic.
Relations between Rodgers and Suárez remain strained after the striker accused the manager of breaking promises over his future and was ordered to train away from the first-team squad as a consequence. They are due to discuss the impasse on Friday when Suárez returns to training from international duty with Uruguay in Japan.
Rodgers wants clarification from Suárez about his intentions following conflicting reports over his desire to stay at Liverpool while away in Japan. Publicly, however, the Liverpool manager claims there is nothing to add to the club's consistent stance that Suárez is not for sale, and that he cannot allow one disaffected striker to jeopardise the team's ambition of Champions League qualification this season.
"There's too much good work gone on here for it to be overtaken by anything else," said Rodgers before the vow of silence came into force. "The players have worked so hard, their concentration has been brilliant and we are all very determined this year. I can't let anything detract from that. Nothing can sabotage what we are trying to do. I don't really want to go on about it. It's just something we cannot afford to happen."
Suárez has denied reports that he intends to stay at Liverpool, a message that has not been relayed to his club, and has not given up on joining a team in the Champions League. Arsenal, who face a play-off against Fenerbahce, have had a £40,000,001 bid rejected and remain the only club to make an offer. But Liverpool are hopeful there is a growing acceptance within the Suárez camp that he will not be leaving Anfield this summer and that his various attempts to agitate for a transfer has not weakened their resolve.
Announcing his Suárez hiatus, Rodgers said: "It is very simple on Luis. So much has been written and said about Luis over the last few months but, from our perspective, there has been a standpoint within the club about where it's at and that hasn't changed. What I want to concentrate on is the players who are available for this weekend's game [at home to Stoke City] so I won't be speaking any more about Luis Suárez until he's available. Out of respect for the players who have worked so hard over the course of these last few months I don't want to answer any more on Luis Suárez.
"There's nothing to be said that hasn't already been said. I'm sure people are fed up listening and reading about it. My only concentration is the players who are available. They've worked tirelessly and purely out of respect for them and the work that has gone on, I only want to talk about them."
Rodgers was prepared to discuss Stewart Downing, who was sold to West Ham United for £6m this week having previously refused to consider a move to Upton Park before being informed his first team chances at Liverpool would be limited next season. Downing had two years remaining on an £80,000-a-week contract at Anfield but the Liverpool manager denies forcing the England international out, and claimed it was the 28-year-old's decision to go.
"It was ultimately the player's decision really," Rodgers said. "Stewart was one I was in no hurry to move, he had two years left on his deal. But he was offered an incredible deal at West Ham so decided to go with it. He had a difficult period early on but we had a wonderful relationship and he did a real diligent job for us on that side. It's something where he has taken that decision to go. He was always part of the plan here."
Liverpool have inquired about the £30m-rated Willian at Anzhi Makhachkala and Rodgers is adamant there will be further additions to his squad before the transfer deadline. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, who both missed last Saturday's friendly defeat by Celtic with minor injuries, returned to training on Thursday and are expected to be available against Stoke.