Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Striker Suarez nets dream £75m switch to Barca

On the move: Liverpool have agreed to sell striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona

Striker Luis Suarez asked for understanding from fans after his £75m move to Barcelona was confirmed.

The Uruguay international brought the brilliant and bizarre to Anfield during his three-and-a-half-year stay, during which controversy was never far away.

Suarez scored 82 goals in 133 appearances and departs after arguably the best season of his career, with 31 goals in 33 league matches making him a Kop idol.

However, he has infuriated those same supporters with two lengthy suspensions – totalling 18 games for racially abusing Patrice Evra and biting Branislav Ivanovic – and tarnished his reputation further by trying to force a move away last summer.

Had he succeeded in pushing through a transfer to Arsenal – especially on the back of their cheeky and misguided £40,000,001 bid – it is doubtful whether the fans would have welcomed him back from suspension as warmly as they did last season, but this time around acceptance was more widespread.

"I hope you can all understand why I have made this decision," Suarez said in a statement after the Reds announced they had agreed a club-record deal with Barcelona.

"This club did all they could to get me to stay but playing and living in Spain, where my wife's family live, is a lifelong dream and ambition. I believe now the timing is right.

"It is with a heavy heart that I leave Liverpool for a new life and new challenges in Spain.

"Both me and my family have fallen in love with this club and with the city but most of all I have fallen in love with the incredible fans.

"You have always supported me and we, as a family, will never forget it, we will always be Liverpool supporters.

"I am very proud I have played my part in helping to return Liverpool to the elite of the Premier League and in particular back into the Champions League. Thank you again for some great moments and memories. You'll Never Walk Alone."

Suarez is currently serving a four-month ban on all football-related activity for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup but that does not extend to transfers.

The 27-year-old will have a medical in Catalonia next week before signing a five-year contract, although Barcelona have to address the issue of how to parade him in front of their fans as the Nou Camp – the usual venue for such occasions – is off limits to the Uruguay international as his suspension incorporates all grounds.

Manager Brendan Rodgers (pictured) now has the job of filling the world-class void left by Suarez. He had hoped to persuade Alexis Sanchez to move in the opposite direction as a makeweight, but the Chile striker signed for Arsenal on Thursday meaning the Reds boss has the full cash amount of the club-record transfer to spend.

Rodgers remains positive they will cope without the brilliance of Suarez.

"Luis is a very special talent and I thank him for the role he has played in the team in the past two years, during my time at Liverpool," he said.

"I think he would be the first to accept he has improved as a player over that period, along with the team, and has benefited from being here as we have benefited from him.

"The club have done all they can over a sustained period of time to try to keep Luis at Liverpool.

"It is with great reluctance and following lengthy discussions we have eventually agreed to his wishes to move to Spain for new experiences and challenges.

"We wish him and his young family well; we will always consider them to be friends.

"We are focused on the future, as we strive to continue with the progress we have made and build on last season's excellent Barclays Premier League campaign.

"I am confident we will improve the team further and will be stronger for this coming season, when we will be competing on all fronts; domestically and in the greatest club competition in the world, the Champions League. If there is one thing the history of this great club teaches us, it is that Liverpool FC is bigger than any individual.

"I hope our supporters continue to dream and believe that we are moving forward and with continued improvement and progression, together we will bring the success we all crave and deserve."

Rodgers' immediate task is to find a replacement for Suarez and he has been linked with a return to former club Swansea for Ivory Coast international Wilfried Bony.

Swans chairman Huw Jenkins has accused the Reds of going behind his back in approaching the 25-year-old but sources at Anfield insist that is not the case.

Rodgers has a very good relationship with Jenkins after they worked together closely during his time at the Liberty Stadium, so any alleged underhand tactics would be in stark contrast to their previous dealings over midfielder Joe Allen.

"I was very surprised to hear and disappointed to hear that Liverpool had gone down that route and were talking to the player behind behind my club's back," Jenkins said.

"I'm disappointed that Liverpool are acting in that manner. No official approach has been made to me or our football club."

However, club insiders have dismissed the allegations, stressing there has been no contact with the player.

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