London (AFP) – Liverpool striker Luis Suarez's recurring brushes with the football authorities have damaged the club's brand, managing director Ian Ayre claimed on Thursday.
Suarez returned from his latest ban in a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United in the League Cup on Wednesday, after serving a 10-match suspension for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic last season.
The 26-year-old was previously fined and banned for eight games for racially abusing United left-back Patrice Evra in December 2011, and has frequently hit the headlines for diving.
"Of course, any types of incident of that nature are damaging to a brand but Liverpool Football Club is way, way bigger and always will be way bigger than any one player or one individual," Ayre said during a sports networking event.
"What is important at those times is to ensure that we act respectfully and professionally as a football club. In the past we got some of that wrong and I'd say more recently we got that right.
"Luis is a footballer, sort of a street fighter, a larger-than-life character, and we have seen that across not just even the Premier League, but across football and other sports.
"Nobody is condoning any bad behaviour but it is just something you have to deal with. He is what he is, is the character he is, and we have to try and harness that."
Suarez tried to engineer a move away from Liverpool during the close season, accusing the club of breaking promises made to him, but Ayre says that he has since demonstrated his commitment to their cause.
"We have worked a lot with Luis since the last incident with Ivanovic and he has responded well to that. He has been prepared to commit to that sort of work on his character," Ayre said.
"We saw him back last night (Wednesday) and he looks like the good bits of Luis, which is terrorising defenders and we're pleased he is back, pleased he is contributing."
Speaking after Wednesday's game, Suarez told the Liverpool website that he was determined to make up for lost time.
"I know it was a difficult moment but for myself and for the team it's very important I'm back because I can help the team and being off the pitch, I can't," said the Uruguayan.
"We'll keep going for the week and for the next game. All the time I try my best on the pitch. I'm here to help the team and help Liverpool and I'll try my best."