LONDON – Liverpool striker Luis Suarez insists he has finally learned how to keep his explosive temper and cynical instincts under control.
Suarez has played a key role in Liverpool’s emergence as surprise contenders for the Premier League title this season after surviving one of the darkest periods of his controversial career.
The Uruguay international has played only 15 league matches this term, as he had to serve the remaining half of a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in April.
Suarez had been banned for eight matches after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra the season before that.
He has also been accused of diving at times and earned widespread criticism for cynically conceding a penalty with a handball during the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal against Ghana.
Suarez was sent off for the offense, but Ghana missed the penalty and Uruguay went on to win the match.
But he has worked hard to keep his volatile emotions in check of late, telling ESPN: “My temperament, attitude, desire and hunger when I am on the pitch has always been like this and will continue to be this way, but I now know I have to control it more.
“An example of this was about two weeks ago when I had an open shot at goal and hit the post and it rebounded close to my hand and I was about to go for it and then I stopped.
“If the same thing had happened two months ago I would have gone for it. These things stay with me but I tell you I am changing.
“I am improving my attitude on the pitch because I know I was wrong in the past and I was creating an image of myself I know wasn’t me.”
Securing a place in next season’s Champions League is widely seen as vital to ensuring Suarez doesn’t once again agitate for a move away from Anfield in the offseason.
He tried unsuccessfully to engineer a move to Arsenal before the start of the current campaign, angering Reds boss Brendan Rodgers in the process, but has put that row behind him by scoring 20 Premier League goals so this season.
Liverpool is currently fourth in the table, the last of the Champions League qualifying spots, and Suarez is determined to ensure his side remains there.
Defoe headed to MLS
Striker Jermain Defoe has agreed to leave Tottenham and join Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC at the end of February.
The 31-year-old has scored 142 goals during two spells at Tottenham and is the club’s top scorer in European competitions.
Tottenham has at least nine matches to play before Defoe leaves for the MLS team, which opens at Seattle on March 15.
Defoe says “everybody knows how much this club means to me, and I will play my heart out for the team and the fans until my last kick for the club.”
Tottenham also announced an advertising and marketing deal with Toronto’s owners, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and an exhibition at Toronto on July 23.
“We are thrilled, for our club and for our fans, with the opportunity to bring a global football superstar like Jermain Defoe to Toronto FC,” Maple Leaf president Tim Leiweke said in a statement. “We promised our fans in October that building a winning club was our top priority, and we scoured the globe to find the right players to fulfill that promise. Right from the beginning of this process, Jermain Defoe was the top player on our list, and we got our man.”