Dec 19 (Reuters) - Luis Suarez has matured since his 10 match ban for biting and is thriving on the leadership role he has been handed by the club says manager Brendan Rogers.
The Uruguayan striker has been in scorching form since returning from suspension for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic last season, scoring 17 goals in 11 league appearances, more than the total managed by half the clubs in the Premier League.
Having appeared to be on his way out of the Anfield club during the off-season and at odds with his manager, he is now more settled in Merseyside. His redemption following a litany of off-field dramas continued on Monday when he was given the Football Supporters' Federation Player of the Year award, which was voted for by more that half a million fans.
"I think he's just matured," Rogers said in a news conference ahead of Saturday's visit of 15th-placed Cardiff City.
"He's really felt the love of the supporters after the 10-game ban, it was extremely difficult for him to cope because he's a man that plays football because of the love of the game, I think you see that in him every week and every day at training I'm fortunate enough to see that.
"I just think he's maturing, he is accepting the role and responsibility that I've given him. He is one of the senior players... one of the pillars of the group."
The 26-year-old was named captain for Sunday's 5-0 thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur in the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger, who was on the bench, and Rogers said his enthusiasm was rubbing off on his younger team mates.
"We are a young side, our average age is probably the lowest it's been for a number of years in the Tottenham game, and he's taken on that mantle in order to help and support those players, whilst having that real x-factor that he has to his game."
Liverpool are second in the table, two points off leaders Arsenal and on track for Champions League qualification for the first time since failing to progress from the group stage in the 2009-10 season.
British media have reported that the club has started talks with Suarez's agent over a new contract, but Rogers would not be drawn on the situation.
"There's nothing to report on that. Obviously anything contractually is private so at the minute we are just focusing on his football." (Reporting By Josh Reich, editing by Pritha Sarkar)