Alexis Sanchez is positioned as the main pawn in Barcelona's attempt to lure Luis Suarez away from Liverpool, as the Reds aim to secure an immediate replacement for the Uruguayan striker who looks destined to leave.
Talks between the two clubs are set to begin on Wednesday, according to Mike Whalley of ESPN FC:
Barcelona are set to officially begin their bid to buy Luis Suarez when a club delegation meets Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre in London on Wednesday. Raul Sanllehi, Barca's director of football management, is expected to lead the delegation in discussions with Ayre, sources have told ESPN.
Nick Sutton of BBC Radio 4 tweeted the Daily Star's backpage, highlighting Barca's intentions:
Rob Draper and Simon Jones of the Daily Mail indicate Liverpool are looking to raise £80 million if Suarez is to be sold purely for cash, although Barca "are looking to strike a compromise of around £60m" after the forward was banned from football for four months after biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.
Whalley states that Brendan Rodgers is an "admirer" of Sanchez. The Chilean star would certainly be a suitable replacement for Suarez and offers the same cut-and-thrust style of play that has made his fellow South American such a hit at Anfield.
Barca are said to value Sanchez at around £35 million, according to Draper and Jones, meaning he could be utilised to cover a significant chunk of the transfer fee. Alongside aiding Liverpool's progress in a post-Suarez era, the swap would allow Barca to remove a major wage from their bill, a fulfillment that is increasingly important now UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules are in effect.
Wayne Veysey of Goal.com's thinking follows the same line:
Barcelona have admitted today that Alexis Sanchez is likely to be sold - frees up space in their front line & on wage bill for Suarez.— Wayne Veysey (@wayneveysey) July 1, 2014
One stumbling block may be the wishes of Sanchez. Ben Jefferson of the Express believes the 25-year-old prefers a move to Arsenal over Liverpool, meaning he may not even become an option for the Merseyside club. The player needs to state his intentions now Chile have been knocked out of the World Cup, perhaps making Barcelona's negotiations for Suarez easier in the process.
Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta appears to be playing into Suarez's hands. He praised the striker's apology for his latest biting incident during the Camp Nou unveiling of Ivan Rakitic, in which he was quoted as saying Suarez is "humble enough to admit an error," per ESPN.
Zubizarreta also confirmed offers have been received for Sanchez, while Pedro is destined to stay at the club, as reported by Sam Marsden of the Mirror. He has created the conditions for Suarez's transfer in the public eye, making anything other than a hefty bid for last season's 31-goal striker a major disappointment.
Which is the better deal for Liverpool?
Rodgers has begun his summer spending at Liverpool, bringing in Rickie Lambert, Emre Can and Adam Lallana before letting any major players leave. His team is built around Suarez, who offers the world-class quality to attract players of Sanchez's ilk. Without him, Liverpool's attack is a lot less elusive and most likely less inviting to prospective new teammates.
Still, it is within Liverpool's best interests to rid themselves of a player who continues to soil the club's respected name. Sanchez has the goalscoring threat, natural work-rate and directness to plug any gap left by Suarez, although it is sure to be the longing of many Reds fans to see the duo play together.
However negotiations work out between Liverpool and Barcelona, it seems that conclusion isn't an option.