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Luis Suárez on his time at Liverpool and how Atlético can beat them

The striker recalls his time on Merseyside, and sets his sights on victory when the sides meet in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

Luis Suárez scored a last-gasp winning penalty against Milan on Matchday 2
Luis Suárez scored a last-gasp winning penalty against Milan on Matchday 2 LightRocket via Getty Images

From playing with Liverpool on the PlayStation to joining the team "everybody wants to play for" in 2011, the Uruguayan winds the clock back to his time at Anfield, remembering Brendan Rodgers' philosophy, the "unbelievable" fans and sharing a dressing room with club legends.

Speaking to UEFA.com ahead of Atlético's Matchday 4 clash with his former club, the 34-year-old considers the Spanish side's approach to the game, under the command of "one of the best coaches in the world", Diego Simeone.

On joining Liverpool and the atmosphere at Anfield

Luis Suárez signed for Liverpool in 2011
Luis Suárez signed for Liverpool in 2011Liverpool FC via Getty Images

When I joined Liverpool, I remembered that this was a team I played with on the PlayStation. Any football player would want to play there – any child, any teenager. It was amazing to see the atmosphere at Anfield. Watching the Premier League games was incredible, as was the opportunity to make one of my dreams come true, to be there, to feel the people's love from the very first minute.

On playing with club legends

Despite Fernando Torres leaving at that time, and while it would have been amazing to play with him, just to be sharing a dressing room with players like [Steven] Gerrard, Martin Škrtel, Danny Agger, Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher – club legends who achieved great things – was unbelievable for me.

"You can have a bad game ... but they will never stop believing in you."

On earning the fans' respect

Luis Suárez applauds the Liverpool fans in 2013
Luis Suárez applauds the Liverpool fans in 2013AFP via Getty Images

I think that every time a player goes out on the pitch, they have to realise that they have to commit to the club they're representing. Then the fans see that passion, that ambition for success, that you fight every single ball. That was always my way to do things. You can have good and bad games. You can play well or you can have your worst game ever, but if they see your commitment, that you never give up, then they appreciate that.

They could see my commitment, my desire for Liverpool to continue to be in the footballing elite. It's true that we had a few years where we weren't where we wanted to be. But they saw my attitude, and that's why there was that rapport, that love between us – it was mutual between me and the fans. It was unbelievable and it gave me extra motivation to play at Anfield.

On the power of 'You'll Never Walk alone'

The lyrics say it all. You can have a bad game, and another bad game after that, but they will never stop believing in you. They won't let you walk alone, as they say. People won't boo you if you lose a ball. They will keep believing in you because you are playing for Liverpool. And that confidence which people give you was huge. There have been players who have cost a lot. They haven't had a lot of success, but when they went out on the pitch they felt that love from the people. It's amazing, and it gives you confidence.

"I enjoyed that chat. I liked his conviction, the philosophy he wanted to implement at the club."

On Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson and Luis Suárez in 2014
Jordan Henderson and Luis Suárez in 2014Getty Images

I think he's a player who's improved a great deal. When he joined Liverpool, he came with the tag of somebody who had cost a lot of money. He was a young, English, coming from Sunderland. This may have put some pressure on him, but as he grew in confidence with the team, he took many things from Gerrard, and from experienced players such as Carragher. He took things on board from me.

I think that, as a captain, he has matured a lot. During his career, he has helped the club grow, with his personality and playing better football. He's a role model for English football. Winning a Premier League title with Liverpool must have been fantastic for him, and it's made him greater than he already was.

On former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers and Luis Suárez in Liverpool training in 2013
Brendan Rodgers and Luis Suárez in Liverpool training in 2013Liverpool FC via Getty Images

I think I'd been at Liverpool for a year and a half when Brendan took charge in July 2012. Back then, I had opportunities to sign for other clubs who were getting in contact with me, but he phoned me when I was in Uruguay on holiday, to tell me that he had another way of thinking, that he wanted to change the club and its philosophy, that he wanted the club to get back in the Champions League and fight to win big trophies, that he was going to make the team play great football.

He asked me to believe and trust him. I enjoyed that chat. I liked his conviction, the philosophy he wanted to implement at the club, so I talked to my agent and the club to say that I didn't want to leave, that I wanted another opportunity to be successful at Liverpool. That year wasn't as good as we wanted, but ideas were already pretty clear. So then the 2012/13 season goes by, and I wanted to sign for Arsenal, since Arsenal had played in the Champions League every season prior to that.

"If you get distracted in a Champions League game, you pay for it. I think that's what happened against Liverpool."

On Steven Gerrard's advice and staying with Liverpool

I had some further discussions with the coach, as well as with Gerrard. He was the one that convinced me. I told him I wanted to keep being successful, that I wanted to play in the Champions League. So, he said to me, "If this year we keep improving as we have been, and you're at the level you have to be, next year you'll be able to play for Bayern München, Real Madrid, Barcelona, or whatever club you like. You'll have the chance to choose, but stay for one more year."

I remember that talk with Gerrard, and I remember everything the coach said to me. He texted me things like, "Stay for another year, just try it." And, well, that was the year we were close to winning the Premier League. That's thanks to the team efforts, obviously, but especially to the philosophy and conviction Brendan Rodgers conveyed to us as the coach.

On the 3-2 defeat by Liverpool on Matchday 3

Highlights: Atlético 2-3 Liverpool

I think that in this type of game, against big teams, and in the Champions League, details can go against you. Any small detail, the smallest of mistakes, a millisecond in which you're distracted... in the Champions League you pay for it. That's obvious. If from the first until the last whistle you don't play with conviction, with personality and desire to win, if you get distracted in a Champions League game, you pay for it. I think that's what happened against Liverpool. We started very well, but they are strong and intelligent and very experienced, and they were ahead in the first 20 to 25 minutes, until we got back in the game.

I think in the second half, after Antoine Griezmann was sent off, we were a bit down because we had one man less, but we kept playing to the same standard. The pace was very high, and they started to attack a little bit more until the penalty.

"There's a reason you're playing for Atlético, there's a reason you're here."

On how to approach Liverpool on Matchday 4

Of course, every team has its strengths and weaknesses. We know how good Liverpool are on the counterattack when they get the ball up to their pacy attackers. We know they have some weaknesses we could exploit in our favour and we should exploit them again in the next game. We have to pay attention because, besides using those strengths, they have an extra player, which is the Anfield crowd, and that makes things harder for us.

On Atlético coach Diego Simeone

Luis Suárez and Diego Simeone in 2021
Luis Suárez and Diego Simeone in 2021Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The coach plays an important role in a player's confidence. And when he sees the player doesn't have a great deal of confidence during training or the game itself, he goes and speaks to you and convinces you that you're capable of doing well, saying, "There's a reason you're playing for Atlético, there's a reason you're here. The last game was nothing; you have to keep trying."

That's when the player gets their confidence back. It happens a lot with many players here who have a couple of bad games and then he has a conversation with them and the next game they play amazingly, because the coach persuades them.

He has a passion for football and he's been a player so he knows what the player needs in those tough moments. That's why he's one of the best coaches in the world. He's got such a great track record at Atlético. It's because of his personality and his way of experiencing football and, of course, it's because of his technical knowledge and wisdom.

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