Liverpool, having been dismayed by Fernando Torres's public declaration that he would prefer to move on, are likely to do business with Chelsea if an improved bid is received for the striker. With money at their disposal, Chelsea have used the tail-end of the transfer window to launch a classic sting, leaving Liverpool little option but to seriously consider accepting a realistic bid for a player they will now be resigned to losing and whose continued presence in the squad may even become disruptive.
Carlo Ancelotti did not want to answer questions about the pursuit of Torres after their FA Cup clash at Everton. Chelsea are thought to be preparing a second bid for the Spaniard, after Liverpool rejected their offer, believed to be £35m plus Daniel Sturridge. There are some suggestions that a new offer could include Nicolas Anelka as a makeweight.
Liverpool have turned down Torres's request but may have given Chelsea enough encouragement to move again for the 26-year-old before Monday evening's 11pm transfer deadline. Ancelotti was tight-lipped. "I don't know, we will have to wait. There is no change," was all the Italian would say when asked about the matter.
The travelling supporters at Goodison amused themselves on Merseyside by chanting Torres's name and asking the (absent) player to give them a wave.
While the transfer request that Torres submitted on Friday has officially been rejected, there seems little point forcing a disaffected player to stay when the likelihood is that he would depart in the summer anyway. He is believed to have a release clause in his contract, enabling him to move for £50m if Liverpool fail to qualify for the Champions League. They are highly unlikely to do so.
Liverpool have accused Chelsea of unsettling or tapping up their player, and the London club do appear to have acted in the confident knowledge that Torres would respond to their interest. By delaying their bid until the last few days of the transfer window Chelsea have forced Liverpool to choose between two unacceptable alternatives. Either sell now, when the price is high and there may still be time to acquire a replacement, or keep Torres to the letter of his contract and risk the player underperforming for the rest of the season and incurring the resentment of supporters.
Liverpool's initial response to the Chelsea bid was predictable but Torres's request caught the club slightly by surprise, and there is little time left for talking Torres round or pursuing alternative strategies. A deal will probably go through tomorrow if a price can be agreed that does not involve Liverpool losing too much face.
The £35m-plus-a-player deal would not represent a bad return on a player whom Liverpool bought for £23m in 2007. Many Liverpool supporters are already of the opinion that if Torres no longer wishes to play for the club he should be sold on as soon as possible, and directors are likely to feel the same they have an obligation to hold out for the highest price.
Liverpool's increased bid to sign Luis Suárez from Ajax for £22m on Friday is likely to be the first stage of preparing for life without Torres. If Liverpool do sell, Torres's first game for Chelsea could be against Liverpool next weekend.