Arsenal have reinforced their determination to sign Luis Suárez with a club-record bid of £40m plus £1 for the Liverpool striker. The offer was rejected out of hand by Liverpool but Suárez could push for talks over a sensational move to the Emirates Stadium, if he so desires.
Liverpool were angered by Arsenal's second bid for the 26-year-old when it arrived on Tuesday and remain adamant it will not trigger the release of their prized asset. The Arsenal chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, was informed by his Anfield counterpart, Ian Ayre, that Liverpool would not consider a sum of £40m for Suárez when he lodged an opening offer of £30m plus £5m in add-ons.
But that has not deterred Arsenal from returning, a fortnight later, with an offer that activates a clause in Suárez's contract by one pound. Under the terms of a contract signed in August, Liverpool must inform last season's leading goalscorer of a club's interest once they receive a bid of more than £40m.
Anfield officials were due to fulfil that obligation to the Uruguay international following Liverpool's pre-season friendly against Melbourne Victory . It will then be up to Suárez to decide whether he wishes to agitate for a move to Arsenal, having blamed vilification by the British media and the Football Association as the root of his disillusionment in England.
Liverpool are adamant that the £40m clause is not a fixed sale price and that they remain free to negotiate their own transfer fee for Suárez. As reported earlier this summer, Liverpool rate Suárez as a better player than Fernando Torres when he was sold to Chelsea in January 2011 and would demand in excess of the £50m received for the Spain international. Brendan Rodgers confirmed that position last week when he placed Suárez in the same price bracket as Uruguay team-mate Edinson Cavani, who recently joined Paris Saint-Germain from Napoli for £55.6m.
"When you consider that Cavani has gone for £55m you know … Luis is up there in that bracket of top talent," the Liverpool manager said. "Obviously it [Arsenal's first bid] was an offer we didn't deem worthy of the talent and even if they came back with that kind of amount [£55m] there's no guarantee he would be sold even for that because we are trying to build something here."
Rodgers has repeatedly stated that Suárez is not for sale and it would require "something drastic" to alter Liverpool's stance on a player they supported throughout the racism controversy with Patrice Evra and again when he received a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic last season. The former Ajax captain has six games left to serve of the Ivanovic suspension next term and his appearance against Melbourne Victory will be his first since April's incident.
Nevertheless, Arsenal's strategic move will apply pressure on Liverpool should Suárez ask to open negotiations with Arsène Wenger and push for Champions League football at the Emirates. Arsenal have evidently been encouraged to believe that £40m-plus is a sale clause and a legal dispute over the wording of Suárez's contract cannot be discounted, having been linked with several transfers this summer without breaking the £15m club-record fee paid for Andrey Arshavin in 2009.
Wenger had hoped to sign Gonzalo Higuaín from Real Madrid but the Argentina international is mulling over a move to Napoli for a fee of around £30m. Higuaín's departure from the Bernabéu would increase the prospect of Real joining the pursuit of Suárez but, despite the Uruguayan professing his admiration for Real on several occasions this summer, Real have made no contact with Liverpool.
Suárez, who received a warm reception from a 15,000 crowd that watched Liverpool train in Melbourne on Tuesday, has three years remaining on his contract and Rodgers has insisted the club will not be dictated to by the player over any transfer.
Napoli are also in negotiations to sign José Reina from Liverpool but the goalkeeper's proposed reunion with Rafael Benítez in Serie A has still to be resolved. The Italian club want the Spain goalkeeper on a season-long loan, while Liverpool are keen to remove the 30-year-old's £110,000-a-week contract from their wage bill but want the option of a permanent deal included. The two clubs have not reached agreement on the split of Reina's wages while, for his part, the popular keeper is contemplating whether to move to Italy before a World Cup season having seen a proposed transfer to Barcelona collapse.