• Liverpool close to completing deal for £7.7m Iago Aspas
• Brendan Rodgers eager to strengthen defensive options
Brendan Rodgers has welcomed the pressure of delivering a Champions League challenge with Liverpool next season and believes the club's prospects will be enhanced by this summer's transfer business.
While Liverpool were close to completing the £7.7m signing of Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo on Tuesday, Luis Suárez gave another interview in Uruguay expressing his discontent with life in England and the attraction of a possible move to Real Madrid.
The uncertainty over Suárez's future presents a major problem for Rodgers, although Liverpool have yet to receive an official approach for the striker or transfer request from the 26-year-old. It is also Andy Carroll's reluctance to accept a £15m move to West Ham United that is impacting on Liverpool's immediate transfer plans, such as formalising their interest in Shakhtar Donetsk's £22m-rated midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Despite the complications, the Liverpool manager believes his debut season at Anfield has laid the foundations to compete for a top-four finish. And he accepts that, unlike the respite afforded to last season's rebuilding work, there will be pressure to return to the Champions League next year. "It's no different to how I see it," said Rodgers on next season's expectation. "I'm not here to be comfortable and sit and earn the money and just enjoy being the Liverpool manager. There's a pressure that comes with it. And I believe we're in a much better place to do that.
"What we have shown in my first season is promise. There have been moments of disappointment and moments of delight but when I look at the reality of it we scored 47 goals the season before I arrived and this time got 71, and we hope to add to that amount. Defensively, for a team that was supposedly very strong last year, we only conceded three more goals so in terms of numbers and performance-wise then we have improved.
"I believe we will improve again and we have to because we want to sustain a challenge. I think we can do but it will be a tough ask because as we improve other clubs will have masses more money to improve also. But I believe we have built a real good base. It's not my job to look for excuses, I have to find the solutions to try and push us in there and I believe we won't be too far away."
Liverpool are awaiting the results of Aspas's medical before confirming the striker's transfer and have agreed a deal in principle to sign Kolo Touré on a free when his contract at Manchester City expires at the end of the month. Defensively and creatively, however, Rodgers admits Liverpool require more from this window.
The Liverpool manager added: "We need one or two centre halves and I'm looking to bring 20 more goals into the team. So I'm also looking at another offensive player to give us a real threat on goal and another attacking midfield player. We definitely need to do that, especially if we're going to put some young ones out on loan next season to gain experience. But it's not easy when you can't make mistakes. We want to keep the acceleration and pushing on so this is a very important window for us. We have to do our best to make it right because the players who need to come in have to be effective right from the off."
Rodgers's plans will invariably alter should Suárez request a move and Liverpool receive a suitable offer for the Uruguay international. In his latest interview while on international duty, to RR Gol, Suárez reiterated that he has been unfairly treated by the media in England and, in relation to the Patrice Evra racism controversy, the Football Association.
"Without any proof they gave me an eight-match ban," said Suárez, "But with [John] Terry, where they had proof, lip-readers, they gave him four. I'm South American and I think that's the root of all of this."
He added: "Liverpool is a club that I dreamt about playing for as a boy. I have been with great players there, they know me and I would love to continue for many more years at Liverpool. The stadium is spectacular, the fans are phenomenal: people with tattoos of me, things that I could never have imagined. After the [Evra] suspension people would come up to me, this is something that really touched me and they would say: 'Luis forget everything and stay.' But I can't forget as it was something that I had to suffer, that my family had to suffer and away from football I have a family to support and who are hurt by these things.
"About a week ago I was walking in a shopping centre near Manchester and three or four guys asked me for a photo. While we were posing for it my wife said to me: 'Luis, get out of the photo.' She noticed they were making biting gestures. I was with my wife and my daughter. Things like that get on your nerves. My wife was on the brink of tears and the blokes ran off laughing. You get tired of stuff like that."
Suárez, who received a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic last season, again stated he was tempted at the thought of playing for Real Madrid but "the only thing I know is that I have a contract [with Liverpool]".
He added: "My agent said to remain calm rather than quiet, remain calm and when there is concrete interest you'll be the first to know."