Only Wayne Rooney has gained more attention as a potential English Premier League transfer target than Liverpool star Luis Suarez, who was once again the subject of attention about a potential move on Thursday.
Sky Sports reported on Thursday that manager Brendan Rodgers is determined to keep his best player in the fold heading into the 2013-14 EPL season, but he might have his hands full as pressure from other clubs starts to heat up.
Rodgers tried to clear up any doubts that he wanted Suarez back next season:
He is a wonderful player and he is still very much a Liverpool player. No matter who the player is, nobody is bigger than Liverpool Football Club...Luis is a very important member of this squad and I am looking forward to working with him again this season.
There has been lots of speculation about Luis moving to another club but, as I said, he is very much a Liverpool player...We had an offer that was nowhere near what we value him at. Of course he wants to work and play at the top level. But unless something drastic happens, he will be staying here. He has got three years left on his contract.
Managing director Ian Ayre told Bloomberg (via Goal.com) that the Reds have already rejected a £35 million bid from Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. According to Chris Bascombe of The Telegraph, the Gunners are going to have to increase their bid above £40 million if they want Suarez in their lineup next season.
There's been a lot of drama surrounding a potential Suarez move during the transfer window, but keeping the Uruguayan star at Anfield is the right move for all parties involved.
As Rodgers comments affirmed in the Sky Sports report, Suarez will be a Red next season "unless something drastic happens."
That being said, it's not as if Suarez hasn't thrown fuel on the transfer fire this summer.
He admitted in May to Uruguayan radio station 890 Sport (via The Guardian) that it would be hard to turn down interest from Real Madrid in the event that the Bernabeu were to come calling, citing treatment from the English media and increasingly overwhelming expectations as reasons why he might leave the Premier League for the Spanish League side.
His on-pitch antics have also left something to be desired.
Suarez will serve the remainder of his 10-match biting ban during the first six matches of the EPL season. He bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during one of the final matches of the 2012-13 season, and the FA did not look the other way.
Desperate to return to the Champions League and top of the EPL table this year, Liverpool would be hard-pressed to accomplish that feat without the 26-year-old headlining Rodgers' lineup each night.
Suarez has 55 career goals for Liverpool. Thirty of those came during the 2012-13 season, when he scored 23 EPL goals for the Reds and added four more in the Europa League.
There's been more turmoil than excitement about Suarez returning to Anfield for his fourth season with the English club, but Rodgers and Liverpool have already made an emphatic statement by rejecting Arsenal's bid for Suarez. Rodgers made another on Thursday with his comments about the young star.
Now, the Reds must see it through to the end.
Showing better character on the pitch and continuing to show improvement in his game will be big talking points for Liverpool this year. Suarez had a nice stint at the Confederations Cup earlier this summer and will also be joining the Liverpool squad for their tour of the Far East and Asia.
Arsenal submitted a strong bid for Suarez, maybe stronger than many expected given Wenger's inability to lure big fish to Emirates Stadium over the past couple of seasons.
All indications point to the Gunners at least dabbling with the idea of increasing the offer, and we know that Liverpool could do a lot with £50 million in extra revenue over the next couple of seasons.
But Suarez is an EPL star. He's one of the top five players in the league, and he's critical to Liverpool avoiding another mediocre season.
Liverpool rejected the first bid for Suarez. Here's hoping they can reject the second, third and any other offer that doesn't blow the lid off the box, because anything else would be a disappointment beyond measure for Reds fans this offseason.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.