DAVID MOYES learned the hard way. And Brendan Rodgers has warned rival managers that attempts to wind up Luis Suarez are doomed to backfire in similarly spectacular fashion.
Everton manager Moyes was hugely critical of Suarez before last Sunday’s Goodison derby and suggested the ease at which the Uruguayan goes to ground was driving people away from football.
The Liverpool striker responded by scoring his team’s second after seeing his shot deflect in off Leighton Baines for the opener, a goal he pointedly celebrated by racing towards the home dugout and producing a swan dive at Moyes’s feet.
And Rodgers believes Suarez has proven that the more he is riled, the stronger he becomes.
“Other managers have tried to use it as a psychological tool to put him off and to affect referees but it makes him stronger,” says the Northern Irishman, who will restore Suarez to the firing line for tomorrow’s Premier League visit of Newcastle United.
“With Luis’s performance level, consistency and the goals he’s scored, they would be better off saying nothing because the support he gets from me gets even stronger because of how honest I see that he is and the supporters and players really support him.”
Rodgers added: “When I was Swansea manager we arrived in Liverpool and I said to the players ‘This was the one guy who is a nuisance but he’s a nuisance for the right reasons because he’s a top player. He’s a real threat in and around the box so you have to be careful’.
“I remember reading something from a journalist in Holland when he first came into the country, saying that he’s a player who will always divide opinion.
“If he’s playing for your team people will love him but if he isn’t he’ll get a bit of stick but that’s because he’s world class.”
Moyes was the latest in a growing number of critics of Suarez, prompted by the player’s obvious dive in the goalless draw against Stoke City last month.
The Everton manager, though, was later forced to lambast his own skipper Phil Neville after the veteran was cautioned by referee Andre Marriner during the 2-2 derby draw for simulation.
And Rodgers insists it is wrong to single out Suarez when there is an issue at every Premier League club concerning players who too readily go to ground.
“This will be the ongoing debate and now people will see that,” says the Liverpool manager.
“You look at the weekend and two players that you would deem to be great professionals Angel Rangel and Phil Neville.
“Angel Rangel was booked against Manchester City for diving and I worked with him for two years and he’s one of the most honest people I’ve come across in my life but he got booked for diving.
“Phil Neville plays for Everton, he’s 35 and over the years you would consider him to be an honest pro but he gets booked for diving after his manager has read out the riot act to his players by all accounts and other peoples’ players.
“And then you have Fernando Torres booked for diving.”