Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has criticised what he called FIFA’s political decision not to include former team mate Luis Suárez on their shortlist for this year’s Ballon d’Or award as the world’s best footballer.
The list, announced earlier this week, had 23 names on it, but not that of the Uruguayan striker, who was banned for four months by FIFA after biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup in June.
He only returned to football last weekend, playing in El Clasico against Real Madrid for Barcelona, whom he had joined from Liverpool for a fee the English club said was £75-million.
“He scored 31 goals and was voted best player in the hardest league in the world,” Gerrard said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
“So you tell me how he’s not on the Ballon d’Or list? Incredible. He should be fighting Cristiano Ronaldo for it. That’s a fact. I can’t believe it but that’s politics in football isn’t it?”
Gerrard, meanwhile, is waiting to open talks with his only club about a new contract.
“I certainly won’t be retiring this summer,” he said.
“I will play beyond this season. We will have to wait and see if that’s at Liverpool or somewhere else. That’s Liverpool’s decision. If they don’t come then I will see what’s out there.”
Liverpool have struggled so far this season without Suárez, partly because England international striker Daniel Sturridge has been out injured since the end of August and new signing Mario Balotelli has yet to score a league goal.
Praise for Sturridge
“I’m not looking for excuses but there are collective reasons for our stuttering start this time,” Gerrard said.
“We lost a key player, we’ve had a key player injured and other Premier League sides have improved.
“For me, when you talk about potential in this country, Daniel Sturridge is the player with the most. Ability-wise he is possibly the number one [English] striker I’ve played with, when you talk about speed, sharpness and skill and different types of goals.”
Gerrard also has faith in the maverick Balotelli, of whom he says: “He just needs time to score the goals he needs to prove to people he is worthy of staying here. I am not going to judge him after 10 games.
“To come in after Suárez was always going to be a big ask and he’s not feeling sorry for himself. He is working hard, doing extra shooting sessions.”
Sturridge remains unfit ahead of a big eight-day period for Liverpool, who are away to Newcastle on Saturday, Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday, then at home to league leaders Chelsea on Saturday week. – Reuters