Former Liverpool goalkeeper-turned pundit David James has waded into the Luis Suarez transfer saga by claiming that Liverpool are better off without him.
James spent seven years at Anfield in the 1990s, and he believes that his presence in the side is getting in the way of the club progressing to become a better side.
He said that the Reds were being restricted by having him in the side because everything focuses around him rather than the wider team element.
"On a purely footballing side of things, as talented an individual as he is, the problem I find is that everything seems to go through Luis Suarez," said the 43-year-old former England international said.
"You have this talented player and there is no question about that but does it make the team better?
"I think there is so much hinging on Suarez that it is actually stopping Liverpool from progressing.
"I think the club, in letting him go, can actually then develop a lot more unpredictability about them, in the sense that they will have more options to play.
"(Daniel) Sturridge came in and was their second top goalscorer in half a season and you have Stevie G (Gerrard) there as always bolstering those numbers but there is so much focus on one player.
"Last season Liverpool finished seventh. I think without Suarez, they have a better chance (of finishing in the top-four)."
Suarez initially claimed that he wished to leave England due to the treatment he received from the British press, but when he added he wanted to compete in the Champions League, he alerted Arsenal who thought they could be able to lure him to London.
They had two bids turned down by Liverpool – the second of which would have more than doubled the club’s record transfer fee at £40m plus £1 – but manager Arsene Wenger revealed he remained interested in signing the Uruguayan striker despite Liverpool’s reiteration that he wasn’t for sale.
The Gunners believed they triggered a release clause with the bid but Liverpool vehemently deny the claim, with the Merseyside club adamant that they merely had to inform Suarez of the bid and negotiate a deal should they wish to.
Suarez himself was said to have thought Arsenal had met the release fee, and it was reported that he was considering legal action in an effort to manufacture a move away from Anfield.
Suarez made his second appearance at Anfield this season when he featured in an open training session that saw him cheered by fans each time he was involved, having come on as a second-half substitute in Gerrard’s testimonial on Saturday.
But despite the good reaction from the watching crowd, Suarez was reluctant to acknowledge the support from the 5,000 fans in the stands.
"They love this man, or the vast majority of them do," James continued while speaking at the launch of a deal which sees bookmakers Betfred show new sports channel BT Sport in all their 1,370 shops as part of Betfred TV.
"For all the turmoil he has been through at that club he came on the pitch at Stevie G's testimonial and got a very good reception.
"But I still think Liverpool can progress without him so it is not a case of them having to turn their back on him or dislike him.
"I think if you are a Liverpool fan you just say 'We can do well without him - we don't need him as our talisman'.
"If he goes to Arsenal then I would argue that Luis Suarez will do what Luis Suarez does. Will that make Arsenal a better team?
"He might score as many goals but I think you would lose goals from elsewhere.
"It wouldn't be a loss for Liverpool."
Suarez scored 30 goals in 44 appearances last season but he hit the headlines when he bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, earning him a 10-match ban of which he still has six games to run in the new season.
Striker Daniel Sturridge returned to training today after he recovered from an injury he picked up in May, and Brendan Rodgers was pleased to see him back considering that he will be without Suarez for at least the beginning of the season providing he doesn’t leave.
"I thought he looked very sharp," Rodgers told liverpoolfc.com.
"It's important he has another good week's training and it was great to see him back today, because for me he can be one of the top strikers in the Premier League this season.
"He's played no part in the pre-season so when you put him in at the top end of the field with his pace, power and his quality we are able to add something more to the group as well."
Liverpool are hope to make progress on their move for Atletico Madrid forward Diego Costa in the next few days after they made a £21.8m offer last week that triggered a release clause in his contract, though negotiations are yet to reach an advanced stage.
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