The Uruguay international has been courted by Arsenal during the summer window but FSG’s reluctance to sell is set to see him remain at Anfield
By Duncan Castles
Luis Suarez has accepted that he will not be permitted to leave Liverpool in the current window after the club’s American owners told the Uruguay international they had no intention of honouring his contract’s £40 million exit clause, Goal can reveal.
Fenway Sports Group are confident they have won the summer’s most controversial transfer saga – despite reports of late interest from Real Madrid – but their victory may ultimately prove short-lived.
The club’s treatment of Suarez has left the striker determined to force a move next year. Those who know the South American well insist there is no possibility of Suarez expressing his discontent with Liverpool’s owners by underperforming on the field.
With Steven Gerrard also placing pressure on FSG to match their aggressive stance on their leading scorer with an equally bold signing, Suarez hopes the season will at least be shared with a stronger squad than has so far been assembled.
Whether that expectation proves realistic or not, the famously strong-minded striker is determined that a campaign forced upon him by men who reneged on “the club’s word” will be his last in their employ.
“Luis will stay for another year,” a close friend told Goal. “He is very annoyed; very disappointed with this. It makes the decision to leave next year even easier.”
Despite a Premier League season in which he scored 23 goals in 33 appearances, Liverpool again failed to qualify for European football, and Suarez expected to be allowed a transfer.
Amid interest from stronger clubs last summer, he agreed to renew his Anfield contract solely on the condition that he would be permitted a move should the club fail to reach the Champions League.
A minimum price of £40m was agreed, with Suarez also receiving assurances that FSG intended to invest in a group of quality players capable of rendering the clause unenforceable by returning Liverpool to Europe’s premier club competition.
Instead, Brendan Rodgers could only guide his new team to seventh-placed finish, 12 points off their target.
When Arsenal exercised the release clause with a late-July bid of £40,000,001, Liverpool made it clear that they would not be honouring the agreement, principle owner John W. Henry using Twitter to play to the Anfield crowd. “What do you think they’re smoking over there at Emirates?” Henry wrote.
Liverpool’s argument was that the clause merely required them to open negotiations with a bidder, not to sell. What Suarez understood to be the spirit of the previous year’s agreement was not to be respected, with the club initially floating a £50m price point, then indicating that they would not sell to a direct rival.
In the first week of August, Suarez granted an interview to a pair of UK newspapers, explaining why he felt entitled to a move. The next day, Henry responded with a public statement that there were no circumstances under which the striker would be allowed out. Not to Arsenal, nor to any overseas bidder.
“We are not going to sell Luis,” Henry said. “It’s very important, but especially for Liverpool because we’re not in Europe this year.
“He won’t be sold even if a foreign club comes in because we do not have time to sign a suitable replacement. It’s not about finances. So late in the window we can’t replace him. So for football reasons we can’t sell, and especially to Arsenal.”
While Real Madrid initially explored fulfilling Suarez’s long-held ambition to play in Spain – planning to field him in a quarter-billion Euro attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale – the club has been forced to focus on the headline signing of England’s player of the year.
Tottenham’s determination that the payment terms of that proposed €100m (£85m) deal include an unusually high percentage of up-front cash limited their ability to bargain for Suarez even before Henry’s declaration that he is no longer for sale.
Funding a final-week offer for Suarez with the proceeds of Arsenal’s mooted bid for Benzema is also a highly unlikely avenue. Not only is the France international the sole experienced centre forward in Madrid’s new rebuilt squad, he is also a personal favourite of Florentino Perez.
Madrid’s president drove the purchase of Benzema from Olympique Lyon for an initial €35m (£30m) following his re-election in 2009. Perez then pushed for the striker to remain in the team’s starting line-up despite a comparatively mediocre return of 88 goals in 184 Madrid appearances.
When Gonzalo Higuain was beset by a serious back injury in the 2010 winter window, Jose Mourinho even found himself prevented from recruiting a centre forward on loan in a move that maximised Benzema’s playing time.
Suarez is understandably aggrieved by FSG’s behaviour, yet his respect for Liverpool’s support and the ferocity of his competitive spirit is such that he has vowed not to let disappointment affect delivery on the pitch.
Though the Americans have forced a compromise upon him, for Suarez the matter is far from over.
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