Luis Suarez looks destined to become the main subject of the summer transfer window.
The Uruguayan has firmly established himself as one of the stars of the Premier League this season, as he leads the Premier League goalscoring charts with 22 goals in 29 appearances for Liverpool. This has inevitably led to speculation around his future, with Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City coach, making no secret of his admiration of the forward.
And the interest doesn’t begin and end on these shores: Bayern Munich, who will be coached by Pep Guardiola next season, have also been heavily linked with the player, as have Italian champions Juventus and Spanish giants Real Madrid.
All of these clubs, and probably more, will have been alerted by quotes attributed to Suarez, who is currently back in his homeland preparing for a World Cup qualifier against Paraguay. Should an offer from a leading club come his way this summer, he is believed to have said, then he will consider these carefully before deciding if he wants to leave or not.
Almost as soon as these quotes reached England, Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s managing director, was issuing his take on the comments. Speaking to Five Live, he suggested the 26-year-old’s words may have been ‘lost in translation’, before underlining the ‘honesty’ the club and the player share, and his hope of retaining the former Ajax ace for many years to come.
Even if Suarez hasn’t been quoted verbatim, his supposed words aren’t likely to be too far from the truth. Of course there is no doubt he has a deep passion for Liverpool, the club he claims he used to select when playing computer games in his younger days. But having now been elevated as to one of the best talents in the game, he won’t be satisfied with milling around the top-six or seven in the Premier League and competing in Europe’s second-tier club competition every season. And with a host of clubs willing to offer him Champions League football at a time when his current side are fighting to even make the Europa League, you can understand why he may be willing to listen to offers in the summer.
Obviously Liverpool won’t just sit back and let him leave upon receipt of the first bid. Having handed Suarez a new contract after just 18 months on Merseyside, he is now tied to them until the summer of 2018. Sure, they could bank possibly as much as £40million if they did decide to cash in on him, which is money Brendan Rodgers could use for his continued rebuilding of a club who last won the league title way back in 1990.
But if he wanted to raise that sort of money, he would look at other means, such as offloading fringe players like Jonjo Shelvey, expensive flops such as Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing, and possibly even established stars Pepe Reina and Martin Skrtel. Selling Suarez, the one player he can’t afford to be without, would be the absolute last resort.
If the Uruguayan gets to the stage where he feels he really does need to move on, then this won’t have been an easy decision for him. He will remember how the club stood firmly alongside him during the Patrice Evra affair, in which the South American was given an eight-match ban for racially abusing the Manchester United defender. Such loyalty from the club, the fans and his colleagues would have touched him, and they are entitled, especially with five years left on his contract, to expect some loyalty in return.
So if a decision is there to be made in the coming months, you can see how Suarez may be torn: stay at an underachieving club who supported you during the worst stage of your career, or move on to one who can offer you the platform to prove you deserve to be ranked alongside the current greats of the game?
It could prove to be a difficult summer for both Liverpool and Luis Suarez.