Liverpool will consider selling Luis Suárez but only for a club-record fee of more than £50m. Their leading striker is intent on ending a turbulent two-and-a-half-year career in English football.
Suárez declared on Friday that he wants to leave Liverpool when giving a third interview in two days expressing disillusionment with life in England. He had previously encouraged interest from Real Madrid by stating it would be hard to reject the Spanish club, then suggested it is time for a "change of environment" before taking matters further and announcing his desire to quit the Premier League.
That prompted an emphatic response from Liverpool, who have been unable to rein in the 26-year-old while he is on international duty in his native Uruguay but are determined not to be coerced into a deal with Madrid or any other club. A Liverpool spokesperson said: "Luis Suárez is not for sale. Neither Luis or his representatives have communicated these feelings directly to Liverpool football club. The club remains supportive of Luis and expects him to honour his contract. We will not be making any further comment at this stage."
Suárez will have to submit a written transfer request to challenge Liverpool's position but the club's stance is unlikely to change until they receive an offer greater than the £50m banked from Chelsea for Fernando Torres.
Liverpool are obliged to inform Suárez of any club prepared to activate a clause, believed to be in excess of £40m, that was included in the new four-year contract he signed last August. The clause will trigger negotiations should he wish to speak to that club, but not an automatic sale, and Liverpool would enter any talks insisting the Uruguay international is a better, fitter player than Torres was in January 2011.
Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, conceded last week that Suárez does have his price but his view on the player's future has not changed in light of recent comments. He said then: "They [Fenway Sports Group, the club's owner] have been absolutely unequivocal in their resolve in terms of wanting to keep him. Listen, every player has their price but there's certainly no pressure for the club to sell him. We're trying to build that bit of quality, so he's not for sale."
Suárez has repeatedly claimed his reason for wanting to leave is not financial or the lure of Champions League football, with Liverpool failing to qualify for Europe next season, but his treatment by the press in England. Ahead of Uruguay's friendly against France in Montevideo on 4 June he said: "It is a difficult moment for me. My coach and my colleagues know that they [the media] didn't treat me well. Because of the paparazzi I could not go in my garden, I could not go to the supermarket. My reason for leaving is not the money. It's my family and image. I don't feel comfortable here any more."
Suárez was a target for photographers after he bit the Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in April, an act that resulted in a 10-match ban from the FA and, he has now confirmed, prompted him to reconsider his future. "The straw that broke the camel's back was my mistake," he said of his second suspension for biting an opponent. The first was with Ajax in 2010.
The striker claims he has not agreed a deal with Real but Liverpool had feared he would push for a move despite their steadfast support over the Patrice Evra racism controversy and the Ivanovic issue. Those two incidents alone have landed Suárez with suspensions totalling 18 matches but the player claims it is the press who has sullied his image.