Barcelona striker Luis Suarez returns to Anfield on Tuesday hoping to dump Liverpool out of the Champions League semi-finals, but remains eternally grateful to the Reds for helping him win a move to the Catalan giants.
Suarez shone on the field during a turbulent three-and-a-half years at Liverpool, that included long bans for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and racially abusing Patrice Evra of Manchester United.
His role in leading Liverpool to the brink of a long-awaited Premier League title in 2013/2014 saw Barca splash out a then club record fee despite another biting incident on Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup that saw him banned by FIFA for four months.
That faith has been rewarded as Suarez has enjoyed great success in Spain, winning four La Liga titles, the Champions League in 2014/15 and four Spanish Cups.
And he believes his time at Liverpool was the springboard to making him one of the world’s best strikers.
“Liverpool gave me a lot to make me better. My time there made me more professional, make me improve technically, many things,” he said on Monday.
“To be captain of Liverpool was something unique in my career. We were fighting for the Premier League and you are left with the sensation we were just one step away.
“I am among the elite of football, I am at Barcelona, thanks to what Liverpool made me as a player.”
Suarez scored the opening goal against his old club as Barca took a commanding 3-0 first leg lead last week to defend at Anfield.
However, he warned the Spanish champions of making the same mistakes they did in throwing away a 4-1 lead against Roma in last season’s Champions League quarter-finals and knows that Liverpool can be a different team on home soil.
“We have come off the blow of last season when we had a good advantage (from the first leg). We have thought about that a lot and we know that they have an extra edge here in front of their fans.
“To play at Anfield is like playing with an extra man for what the fans transmit to the Liverpool players.”
However, if Liverpool are to spring an unlikely comeback, it will be without two of their major goal threats as Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino miss out through injury.
“Firmino and Salah are important players for them, but that does not change our preparation for the game,” added Suarez.
“They have other players, most of them internationals and we need to pay them plenty respect.”