Liverpool must do everything in their power to ensure Luis Suarez remains with the club heading into next season. It's a delicate situation, especially given the striker's late-season suspension, but the Reds would struggle mightily trying to replace him.
Suarez sent waves throughout Europe by making comments about Real Madrid in a Uruguayan radio interview with Sport 890. ESPN passed along the remarks, in which he said the English media would impact his decision-making process.
The desire to win with the big clubs is always there. I've talked to my agent, there's nothing concrete. To say no to Madrid would always be difficult and more so with the team they have.
I have a contract with Liverpool, but it would be very difficult to say no to Real Madrid. There are a lot of rumours in the transfer window, but you never know until firm offers are made.
I'm happy at Liverpool. I'm happy because of the fans. I made a mistake, I'm human, but they've talked about me in ways they shouldn't have. My family have suffered and things got out of hand. My daughter and my wife have suffered. I'm not prepared to continue to put up with the English press.
His agent, Pere Guardiola, quickly clarified the situation before the backlash could get totally out of control. He told Bryan Swanson of Sky Sports that Suarez is still happy with his place at Anfield and isn't planning a summer move.
Luis Suarez's agent Pere Guardiola has told us Suarez remains happy at Liverpool and has no plans to leave in this transfer window.— Bryan Swanson (@skysports_bryan) May 30, 2013
There are two ways to view Guardiola's response. In one respect, it's a positive sign that he didn't follow up Suarez's comments by saying his client was looking to move. At the same time, it's hardly a guarantee that the striker is staying.
After all, just because Suarez doesn't currently have plans to leave doesn't mean that can't change next week or next month. The summer transfer window can feel like it lasts for ages, and things tend to change quite often during that time.
Where will Suarez play next season?
So while the Reds and their supporters can rest easy after initial concerns about the direct Real Madrid link, the saga is likely far from over.
The fact Suarez has developed such disdain for the English media is not a good sign. Even though some of the negative press was warranted after incidents such as biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, he clearly feels slighted by the treatment.
When a player starts bringing outside factors like that into play, it normally means the situation is starting to have an effect on him. Liverpool needs to find a way to address his concerns.
Suarez is coming off another extremely productive season. He netted 23 goals in 33 Premier League matches, which ranked him second behind Manchester United's Robin van Persie.
What makes that even more impressive is the fact he was often the only Liverpool player providing consistent offensive pressure. The club lacked scoring depth until Steven Gerrard improved his form and Daniel Sturridge arrived in January.
If Suarez left, there would be a massive void to fill, which is why everybody at Anfield is hanging on his every word. Also, if he did want to leave, it would be better to find out now than late in the summer when the options to replace him are even more limited.
It's a tricky situation that will seriously test Brendan Rodgers. The outcome will have a lasting impact on Liverpool's hopes of bouncing back next season.