Luis Suarez is not for sale, so back off!
I also want you to know something: Liverpool would be crazy to keep Suarez at this point, on a number of levels.
But we'll get to that in a second. Let's recap the recent remarks of team owner John W. Henry and manager Brendan Rodgers.
First, Henry (via Sky Sports):
We're not in Europe this year and have not been in the Champions League for a while. To sell to a rival for those positions, or one of them, would be ludicrous. Liverpool needs to be playing in Europe, it needs to be playing in the Champions League. That's what Liverpool football club is about."
I'm unequivocal that we won't sell to Arsenal, whatever the bid is. I have not said it to Stan (Kroenke, Arsenal's majority shareholder) but I had a personal conversation with Ivan Gazidis (Arsenal chief executive) and told him we would not sell.
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 a football reason, it's not about finances. That's why, at this point, so late in the window, with everyone who's already moved or isn't moving, we can't replace him. So, for football reasons, we can't sell, and especially to Arsenal."
Next, Rodgers (via Sky Sports):
I spoke to John [Henry] when we were in Norway during the week and we are all on the same page really. We are adamant that he will not be going to Arsenal—that is for sure. We want to keep him.
Luis missed a few games at the end of last season and we continued to score and win without him. That is not to say that we don't want him here. He is a world class striker and when he is committed to the cause of playing for Liverpool then we will welcome him back with open arms.
Let's dissect these comments. Henry's assertion that selling to a club like Arsenal, a competitor for a Champions League, would be foolish makes sense. There is a lot of money to be had from the Champions League, along with the prestige it brings.
For a team that hasn't won an English title since the 1989-90 season, that prestige matters. A lot. If Liverpool doesn't want to sell to Arsenal, fair enough.
But I don't buy that Liverpool is without a price when it comes to a potential Arsenal bid. If the Gunners drop £50 million on the table—which they probably won't, but bear with me here—should I really believe Liverpool would remain steadfast in their refusal to sell?
Because I don't believe that, not for a second. For that type of money Liverpool could bring aboard two, maybe three quality players and vault themselves into top-four competition next season, if not this year.
It may set them back a step or two in the short term, but in the long run it is the right business decision to make.
Furthermore, Henry can't honestly think we believe him when he says Liverpool won't even sell to a foreign club. C'mon. Suarez will never be more valuable than he is right now, and there is still plenty of time to bring in another player to replace him before the transfer window closes at the end of August.
Besides, does Liverpool really want an unhappy superstar just rotting away on the bench? With every game he sits his value drops, and at this point we seem well past the point of amicable return. If Suarez does actually play for Liverpool this year, it will be a grumpier, less productive version of the player we saw last season, and one who will likely remain a point of distraction.
In Rodgers' comments (not included here but from that same Sky Sports' article), he says Suarez will have to apologize to his teammates before being enlisted back to the squad. Apologize for what, wanting to play Champions League football?
What good does saying that publicly do, Mr. Rodgers? If there is one thing lesson I've learned about diplomacy in my days, it is this—making one side of any negotiation publicly eat humble pie is generally a nonstarter.
Oh, and don't expect Suarez to actually apologize anytime soon. From Sky Sports:
Sky Sources: Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has no plans to apologise to the club and his team-mates. More now on #SSN— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 11, 2013
We're reaching absurdly low points in the Suarez saga, aren't we?
If Liverpool is making this about power—about wanting to express, in no uncertain terms, that a player cannot force his way off the club while still under contract—the team's pride will come before its fall. Keeping Suarez is a losing proposition when there is so much money on the table to move him.
Put it another way—catching Arsenal and Tottenham on the the league table (if Gareth Bale sticks around, at least) is already a daunting task this season, with or without Suarez. While a top-four finish should be the team's goal, it can't be its only focus.
There is young, exciting talent on this team, talent that will be ready to make a serious top-four push next season. So why not build for next year instead of holding on to this one? Why insist on keeping Suarez when his departure would be beneficial, both financially and for morale?
Will Suarez be sold this summer?
Remember, players who don't want to play for Liverpool aren't good for Liverpool. Star players stuck on the bench aren't good for the locker room. It's only a matter of time before Suarez is sold—why extend the inevitable?
Let him go, Henry and Rodgers. At this point, giving in to Suarez is also the smartest thing for your club, even if it stings your pride.
Keeping him this season would be pure folly.