Arsene Wenger categorically confirmed on Wednesday that Arsenal’s long pursuit of Luis Suarez is over, signalling a major triumph for Liverpool as they attempt to stay on terms with their top-four rivals this season.
Speaking after the Gunners’ 3-0 success in the first leg of their Champions League playoff against Fenerbahce, Wenger finally delivered the news Anfield bosses have wanted to hear all summer.
Asked if his chase for Suarez was over, the Guardian's David Hytner quotes Wenger as saying: "Yes. There is absolutely no chance of that."
For Arsenal, Wenger’s words are an admission of a significant waste of time and resources during a transfer window that still has not delivered a major signing to the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners clearly felt they had gazumped Liverpool when they registered a somewhat cheeky bid of £40,000,001 million for Suarez, believing the additional pound to be enough to trigger a release clause in his contract.
However, while Arsenal waited for developments, Liverpool stood firm in their knowledge that no such clause existed, insistent that Suarez would remain at Anfield.
Now the Merseysiders have won the battle.
For Brendan Rodgers, Arsenal’s admittance of defeat is a major moment. Only one Champions League spot will likely be on offer to Liverpool this season, with the squads of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea widely expected to dominate the top three spots.
Arsenal, having qualified for Europe’s top competition for the past 16 years, will expect to fill the remaining spot. With Suarez among their ranks, the gulf between the North Londoners and Liverpool would surely have been even greater than the 12 points that separated them last season.
I have confidence from looking at the last six months of last season that we can prove people wrong and break into the top four. But certain things have got to happen to help us do that and one of them is the main subject on everyone's lips—Luis Suarez. If we lose him we are taking steps backwards. If we keep him and add to him we will have a much better chance.
But with Arsenal now ceasing in their chase, Liverpool can look forward to adding last term’s 23-goal man to an attack that forced more saves from the opposing ‘keeper than any other on the opening day of the season.
Suarez still has five games to run on his suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic, but if Liverpool can stay in touch with their Champions League rivals until his return, they will fancy their chances of competing for a top-four finish.
However, Derby manager Nigel Clough warned the Reds in the Derby Telegraph that they will have to pay more than £6 million to land the 18-year-old midfielder.
If somebody comes in through the front door and makes an official enquiry or bid, we will have to react to it. Unless there is somebody sitting there with an awful lot of money burning a hole in their pocket I cannot see it changing.
Would it be more than £6 million? Yes, I think it is fair to say that. We just think it is going to be a very, very substantial figure to tempt him away.
With Suarez staying for now, but clearly still desiring Champions League football, Liverpool would be better served by targeting the capture of a marquee signing—like Willian, on whom they appear to have missed out, per Sky Sports—rather than potential in Hughes.
But it is the policy of the club and its owners to build a strong future at Anfield, and if Hughes does arrive on Merseyside, Liverpool will have landed one of the country's brightest young talents.
At this moment, though, what matters is that the Reds have held on to the game-changing Suarez.