The World Cup is over for both Uruguay and Luis Suarez, and La Celeste's exit at the last-16 stage looks set to be the catalyst for a summer of transfer talk when it comes to the mercurial Liverpool forward.
Reports have emerged suggesting Catalan giants Barcelona are set to get the bidding underway for the 27-year-old this week, with Simon Jones of the Mail Online insisting they’re ready to shell out a whopping £80 million for the player.
The report also suggests that Alexis Sanchez is unlikely to be part of any swap deal, with the Chilean supposedly keen on fighting for his spot at the Camp Nou.
Any deal would naturally see the Uruguayan pick up a stellar pay packet, with John Cross of The Mirror reporting that Barcelona would match Suarez’s current salary of £160,000 a week. In the same piece, Cross suggests that La Blaugrana are also keen on including special clauses into any potential agreement to ensure the player’s conduct remains in order.
Suarez has been banned by FIFA from all football for four months after he bit Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, meaning he’s unlikely to play again until around November. But, despite his poor conduct, Barcelona and Real Madrid both remain interested in the player according to Spanish football expert Guillem Balague:
FCB and RM, as of this morning, knowing of a possible punishment of Suarez, still want him.— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) June 26, 2014
Cross claims if he was to sign up at the Camp Nou, the Barcelona hierarchy would do all they can to help him fight to reduce that ban. He also reports that Suarez is considering drafting in lawyer Juan De Dios Crespo to fight his corner and take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
But according to Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish, his current employers are just as likely to get behind their man, something Dalglish did himself during his previous tenure as Liverpool manager, per The Mirror (via Simon Jones' Mail Online report):
I think you will find that Liverpool will not turn their back on Suarez, whatever the ban FIFA have decided he must serve.
Of course it will be a heavy blow if the club has to do without him for the opening months of the season. That will seem harsh, particularly as he has been in someone else's care for the last few weeks and Liverpool have had no control over him.
After Suarez sensationally fired Liverpool to within touching distance of their first domestic title in 24 years, there seems to be little doubt that Brendan Rodgers and the Liverpool faithful will back their man to the hilt. They’ll be desperate for him to don the famous red strip again next season—albeit a little later than they thought—and spearhead another thrilling title run.
Former England captain Rio Ferdinand agrees with Dalglish, writing in his column for the Mail Online that the Uruguayan is quite simply indispensable for the Reds:
If I were the Liverpool manager there wouldn’t be a moment’s doubt about what to do next with Luis Suarez. I’d keep him. Leave aside, just for a moment, questions of morality or whether his ban is long enough and what is going on is his head to make him do these extraordinarily bad things.
Purely and simply from a football perspective, what he does for you on the pitch—and I don’t mean biting people—makes him indispensable. And with the season Liverpool have ahead of them, that’s truer than ever.
After their unexpected title charge and the regaining of their Champions League status, Liverpool will feel they’ve done all they can to match the ambitions of Suarez, who for all his blemishes, remains one of the most talented footballers on the planet. But despite the striker extending his contract with the Reds back in December, there’s a growing sense he could be on his way out of Anfield.
Is it time for Liverpool to cash in on Suarez?
Reports emerged earlier this month that Suarez has told friends he is keen on a move to Catalonia, according to Spanish newspaper Sport (h/t Metro), while James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo reports there is a release clause in the player's current contract, although details of that figure remain confidential.
If Barcelona do come in with a bid for £80 million for Suarez, it’d present Liverpool with a real quandary. They could sell him and invest heavily in their squad, which admittedly has areas that are in need of patching up. Rodgers has fared well in the transfer market during his tenure as Liverpool boss, and he’d surely relish the opportunity of building a title-challenging squad with that kind of money.
But in the same breath, Suarez would be extremely difficult to replace and often, an immediate influx of new faces makes for a struggle, as Tottenham found out to their peril when they sought to spend the money they received from Gareth Bale's sale. Plus, if Barcelona are not to be deferred by Suarez’s antics, why should Liverpool be any different?
In an ideal world, the Reds would keep Suarez and build a team around him; he’s adored by the fans and has the talent to inspire this Liverpool team to great things. But every player on the planet has their price, and given the Uruguayan’s back catalogue when it comes to on-field faux pas, perhaps a fresh start is exactly what both player and club need.