Liverpool is planning for life without £50million-rated striker Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan star attempted to force through a transfer in the summer as Arsenal relentlessly pursued him before Liverpool dug in their heels and refused to let him leave. Suarez, who recently returned from a ten-match ban after biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, is determined to test Liverpool’s resolve to keep him when the transfer window re-opens for business in January.
The 26-year-old has confided in friends that he remains determined to quit the Reds and join a club that will challenge for major honours. Ideally, he wants move to a Champions League club and as well as being one of world football’s greatest marksmen he will also not be cup tied from playing in Europe this season. Arsenal will almost certainly return to lodge a bid which could reach the £50m mark, but it’s understood that Suarez will reject a move to The Emirates if Spanish giants Real Madrid enter the race to sign him.
Suarez has courted controversy throughout his career. The biting incident involving the shocked Ivanovic was not the first time Suarez had been involved in an unseemly biting row. He was banned for seven games when he was at Ajax after being found guilty of biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal’s shoulder during a match in November 2010. During his time at Liverpool he also received an eight-match ban and £40,000 fine by the FA for racially abusing Manchester United’s left-back Patrice Evra in December 2011.
Despite the controversies Suarez is still recognized as one of the best strikers in world football. In fact, Liverpool skipper Steve Gerrard has gone on the record to salute the striker’s prowess. Liverpool paid Ajax £22.7m for him in January 2011 and signed him to a five-and-half-year contract that isn’t due to expire until the summer of 2016. Yet barely 18 months after arriving at Anfield Suarez’s value has more than doubled. Liverpool is aware of the potential backlash they will face from irate supporters. The official Anfield mantra is that club and player will carry on together.
The Anfield hierarchy has even talked about opening negotiations about a new contract. But privately they fear the battle to retain his services will rear its ugly head yet again when the transfer window opens at the start of January. And senior Anfield sources believe another Suarez transfer tug-of-war will become an unwanted sideshow when, in so many ways, they are making great progress this season.
Suarez has disclosed to close friends that he will maintain his prolific current form to attract more suitors. In the summer he accused Liverpool of reneging on a verbal agreement to let him go if a club offered £40 million for him. When the club refuted that allegation and insisted they had no desire to sell him to one of their Premier League rivals, Suarez threatened to hand in an official transfer request. He never saw through that threat.
However the situation is likely to change in the next transfer window. Liverpool is already looking around for a replacement in the event of Suarez leaving. Although their wish is to keep Suarez the hierarchy at Liverpool accepts they are now facing a losing battle to retain the loyalty of a player desperate to escape.