Liverpool striker Luis Suarez admitted Tuesday he has made mistakes on the pitch that have earned him a bad reputation, but the controversial Uruguayan star defended his 'slyness' and 'character' in an interview with AFP.
'I have a very strange way of playing football,' Suarez said in Montevideo, where he was training for his national side's World Cup qualifier against Paraguay on Friday. "I'm my own severest critic and I realize when I make mistakes."
The English Premier League's top scorer with 22 goals said the criticism he has faced has changed the way he acts on the field.
"There are times that I get yellow cards that can influence a game," he said, adding that for that reason "I have improved and I have to continue" improving a reputation that has cost him fines and bans in his career.
Nicknamed "Pistolero," Spanish for "Gunslinger," the 26-year-old striker has often played the role of villain on the field, notably for his tendency to dive and his clashes with opponents.
He handled the ball to stop a certain Ghana goal in the dying minutes of the 2010 World Cup quarter-final, he bit an opponent in the Dutch league in the same year and he received an eight-game ban over charges that he racially abused Manchester United's Patrice Evra in 2011.
"You can lose some things, but can never lose the slyness, the passion that you have had since you were a kid playing in the street," Suarez said.
"If I didn't have the character that I have today on the pitch, I don't think that I would have become the player that I am today," he added.
The clash with Evra was the most notorious of his incidents since he joined Liverpool in January 2011, but Suarez said the matter, which saw him refusing to shake the French defender's hand before kick-off once, was now "closed."
Despite the diving and other controversies, Suarez has become a key player for club and country, but he admits that Liverpool are enduring a "difficult moment" as they languish in seventh place, in danger of losing out on European competition.
"We have to realise we have a new manager who is imposing a philosophy and a way of playing that the players are adapting to as best we can," he said, referring to Brendan Rodgers. "We hope that it will bear fruit next year."
Suarez said he was "very happy" and under contract at Liverpool, but he acknowledged that "you never know in football" and that "a player's ambition is always there, the ambition of wanting to play in elite teams is always there.
"I'm in a world-class team, an elite team like Liverpool.
"And if another team comes around with more prospects of competing in international club competition games, which is willing to have (me), they are welcome.
"We would talk to the club, we would see if I want to go, if I don't want to go," he said.
He voiced his admiration for Barcelona and Real Madrid and the "incredible" Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but he said that he was more drawn to the "class and quality" of Barcelona's Andres Iniesta.
Describing himself, Suarez said he was a player who "gets mad at himself when things go wrong" but who has "a lot of character and also some football qualities."