Liverpool striker Luis Suarez could be driven away from the Barclays Premier League if he remains the focus of victimisation, according to former Reds director of football Damien Comolli.
Comolli brought the Uruguay striker to Anfield in January 2011 for a then club record £22.7m and Suarez has regularly hit the headlines for his goalscoring prowess as well as some more controversial incidents.
The 25-year-old is by far the Reds’ top-scorer this season, having scored a total of 19 goals in all competitions, way outstripping Steven Gerrard and Jonjo Shelvey with five apiece.
However, Suarez has also been at the centre of controversy, most memorably his eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
He has also been accused of stamping and diving while his handball helped Liverpool beat Mansfield in Sunday’s FA Cup match.
Comolli has warned against the media and fans rounding on Suarez for the good of the Premier League.
“I find it extremely hard to understand why people look at all the bad aspects and not how good the player is,” Comolli told BBC Sport.
“It’ll be an absolute shame for English football if this victimisation drives him away.
“As the biggest league in the world you want to keep the biggest players, not drive them away for crazy reasons.
“He is a fantastic individual and professional – totally committed to his club, team-mates and job. He’ll give you everything, he’s a winner.
“People need to be very careful what they say and stop criticising him. He’s someone you’d want to go to war alongside. I don’t think you can captain Ajax as a foreigner at 21 years of age if you’re not a great individual.”
Comolli, who was sacked by Liverpool in April last year, recruited the vast majority of the side’s current squad during his 17-month stint at Anfield.
The Merseyside outfit are eighth in the Premier League and way off the pace of leaders Manchester United ahead of Sunday’s visit to Old Trafford.
However Comolli, who saw Kenny Dalglish sacked as Liverpool manager a month after his own departure, does not regret any of his signings, including those of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam.
“I don’t have any regrets about players we brought in and I’m sure Kenny is the same,” said Comolli, who is also a former Arsenal scout and Tottenham sporting director.
“You cannot buy young players and not be able to wait for their talent to develop. We brought in very good players.
“Against Sunderland there were no new recruits in the team. Jordan got a standing ovation, Stewart has been playing every game. You need to give players time. They will develop and become very good players.”