John Henry admits Arsenal triggered Luis Suarez’s release clause in the summer, but Liverpool simply refused to let the player leave.
Arsene Wenger had made the Uruguay international his prime target ahead of the current season, and he caught wind of a £40million release clause in his contract. So the Gunners coach made a cheeky bid of a single pound over this valuation, but the Merseyside stood their ground and insisted the player was not for sale at ant price.
At the time Suarez was disappointed at this stance as he was keen to hear what was on offer at the Emirates Stadium club, particularly due to their participation in the UEFA Champions League. He did, though, finally accept he was not going to make the move to the capital, and has since signed a new deal to keep him at Anfield until 2018.
Liverpool have now confirmed that the 27-year-old did indeed have the clause in his contract, but simply decided not to entertain the idea of letting him leave. In comments that are sure to anger Wenger, Henry admits that he disregarded this clause, due to the fact that Suarez is such a key ingredient of their own plans for success.
“Luis Suarez is the top scorer in the English Premier League which is arguably the top soccer league in the world,” Henry said. “And I don’t know what degree I should go into this – but he had a buy-out clause of £40million. So Arsenal, one of our prime rivals this year, they offered £40million and one pound for him and triggered his buy-out clause.
“But what we’ve found over the years is that contracts don’t seem to mean a lot in England, or in world football. It doesn’t matter how long a player’s contract is, he can decide he’s leaving. We sold Fernando Torres for £50million. We didn’t want to sell but were forced to. For the first time (with Suarez) we took the position that we weren’t selling.
“We took the position we’re just not selling and it’s been great for Luis, it’s been great for us, and what will happen at the end of year, I think we’re going to make the (UEFA) Champions League and we have a small chance of winning the Premier League this year. We have three gentlemen up front: Suarez, (Raheem) Sterling and (Daniel) Sturridge. Those three are young, and I think Luis and those three could be together for a long time.”
These words will be akin to rubbing salt in the wounds of Arsenal, who are still desperately lacking a striker of Suarez’s quality. Wenger paid a club record £42.5million for Mesut Ozil after missing out on the Uruguayan, but it is widely accepted that without a prolific marksman, the Londoners will likely fall short in the race for the title.
Ironically, Suarez, who would have felt his chances of silverware would be better served at the Emirates than Anfield, is leading the Reds’ push for a first league title since 1990. A 3-0 win at Southampton saw Brendan Rodgers’ side leapfrog Arsenal, who lost at Stoke City, into second place, and they are just four points behind leaders Chelsea.
With Jose Mourinho’s side, and Manchester City, yet to visit the red half of Merseyside, there is a growing feeling that Liverpool’s 24-year wait for the title could be drawing to a close. However, midfielder Jordan Henderson, who has enjoyed a fine season, is refusing to get too carried away, and insists his team-mates are following suit.
“We have just got to keep our feet on the ground,” said the former Sunderland youngster. “We are very confident but at the same time there is a long way to go so we’ve have just got to take each game at it comes. We’ve got some quality players here and are working very well, so we will take each game as it comes and see where we finish.”