Liverpool owner John W Henry, with the support of Brendan Rodgers and the rest of the club’s hierarchy, will make it clear to any potential suitor for Luis Suarez, including Barcelona, that they will not get the player on the cheap and that the striker is valued at around £80m.
It has been a surreal three days for the Merseyside club since their leading player bit the Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini’s arm on Tuesday night, UK time, and threw his future into doubt once again. The club have no say or influence on the process either with Fifa – who only deal direct with national associations - or the Uruguayan football association (AUF) and have had to accept they are bystanders for now.
Liverpool are aware that they are there is public expectation that they have to take decisive action immediately on the player’s future and any potential disciplinary action of their own. However, they have taken an executive decision that, for now, there is nothing they can do other than make sure they stand their ground on any potential sale of the player.
The reality is that Liverpool, as of last night, still had not been given sight of any of the documents from Fifa relating to Suarez’s ban. They have retained a lawyer and a QC, with experience of dealing with Fifa, to help them with the process but the early indications are that the club will only be able to see the documents once the AUF has completed its appeal process.
Uruguay face Colombia in the first of the found of 16 ties tomorrow night at the Maracana. The manager Oscar Tabarez was expected to give a press conference in Rio de Janeiro this evening around 9.30pm, UK time.
Unable to take full stock of the situation, the club have been prevented from making any major statement on the process, hence their brief public pronouncement on Thursday. Ian Ayre, the club’s chief executive officer, has agreement from owners Fenway Sports Group and Rodgers that the club will not be rushed into doing anything until it has all the details at its disposal.
In the meantime, the club have signed Adam Lallana from Southampton in a deal that could be worth as much as £23m for the selling club. The midfielder has been a long-term target for Rodgers and chose Liverpool over Tottenham, despite Mauricio Pochettino’s move there.
Liverpool are determined the situation will be handled differently to the first Suarez incident when he racially abused Patrice Evra at Anfield in October 2011. On that occasion, the subsequent Football Association investigation demonstrated that Liverpool’s management of the immediate aftermath of the situation had been chaotic, to say the least.
This time, they have resolved to gather all information before committing to any decisions. Sources at the club denied that there has been any meeting between lawyers for the club with Barcelona in the Spanish city, as has been reported. Rodgers has spoken to Suarez personally. Otherwise there has been no contact other than with the player’s agent, Pere Guardiola.
Ayre has a good relationship with Guardiola, the brother of Pep. The two men have twice negotiated new contracts for Suarez, including the deal that he signed in December which makes him the highest-paid player in the club’s history and also gives the club great protection should he again agitate to leave.
If he were to go, Liverpool would demand a transfer fee close to that Real Madrid paid for Gareth Bale last summer, about £80m. The club recognise the seriousness of his offence but do not feel that should give rival Champions League clubs a chance to get one of the world’s most talented, if flawed, players on the cheap.
The club would be interested in taking the Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez as part of any deal, which might complicate matters. However, if a deal cannot be done the club could envisage a situation where Suarez is still a Liverpool player when his ban expires at the end of October. The greater likelihood is that he will leave the club, but that is by no means settled yet.
Suarez returned to Uruguay with his family yesterday. The club anticipate that Suarez might turn up in Barcelona over the next few weeks. His wife Sofia’s family live there and his first child was born there. He does spend some of his free time there when he is not back in Montevideo. There is the possibility of the club taking their own disciplinary action against the player, but none of that can be resolved until they have full sight of the documents relating to his ban.
The Italian defender Chiellini has said that he believes Suarez’s ban of nine competitive international matches and four months in domestic football was “excessive” and that it was “alienating” for him to be expelled from the squad.
He said in a statement that he supported Fifa’s disciplinary process in principle but added, "now inside me there's no feelings of joy, revenge or anger against Suarez for an incident that happened on the pitch and that's done."
The international players’ union Fifpro said that the domestic ban on Suarez playing for his club “must be addressed as it directly infringes his right to work. Also the fact that Liverpool FC is affected needs to be an important issue.” It called for a reduction to the sanction and for Suarez to be given “rehabilitation and serious treatment”.