Brendan Rodgers has said Liverpool are prepared for a Real Madrid bid for Luis Suárez but has reiterated John W Henry's claim that the striker will not be sold.
The Liverpool manager has endured a frustrating summer and in addition to the Suárez situation he did not hide his disappointment that the club failed to land Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala. The Brazil midfielder's future is unresolved, with Chelsea making a late play for the Tottenham Hotspur target. The 25-year-old is understood to have had a medical at Spurs on Tuesday but there is anxiety at White Hart Lane that the £30m target is slipping through their fingers.
Chelsea have made a firm move for Willian and should they succeed – and it is looking increasingly likely – it would raise questions about José Mourinho's existing attacking midfielders, chief among them Juan Mata.
Henry, Liverpool's principal owner, stated a fortnight ago that the club would not entertain any offers from Arsenal or a European team for Suárez and none have been received since. But with Arsenal switching their focus from the Uruguay international to Real's Karim Benzema, and the Spanish club holding a long-standing interest in the Liverpool striker, Rodgers is anticipating a belated approach from Real, who are also close to agreeing a world-record £86m deal for Tottenham's Gareth Bale.
Real have always been Suárez's preferred destination and relations with Rodgers were strained when he accused the Liverpool manager of breaking promises over his future in a Guardian interview. But having missed out on a major summer signing for the third time this week, and confirming that Liverpool's pursuit of Willian collapsed for financial reasons, Rodgers says the club cannot accept any late moves for Suárez.
Asked if he expected Real to formalise their interest with an offer before the transfer window deadline of 2 September, the Liverpool manager said: "I'm sure there will be plenty of activity in these last number of days. It is what it is, and we will deal with it like we have during the summer.
"It's very difficult at this time [for a Suárez bid to succeed]. We are trying to get one or two more quality players in through the door. If we lose Luis at this stage it would be difficult to replace him. There might have been a point a few months ago where there was time to do it but with 11 days to go it would be difficult to replace him."
Arsène Wenger said his pursuit of the Liverpool striker had ended following Arsenal's win over Fenerbahce in the Champions League play-off on Wednesday. With the club's move for Manchester United's Wayne Rooney also looking impossible, he has turned his attention back towards long-time target Benzema.
Ironically, Suárez could hold the key to Arsenal's hopes after they failed with bids of £35m and £40,000,001 for the 26-year-old. Real would not sell their only senior No9, having already moved Gonzalo Higuaín to Napoli, unless they could sign a big-name replacement and Arsenal hope that Real could yet take Suárez, despite Liverpool's insistence that they will not sell.
Benzema, though, is a favourite of the Real president Florentino Peréz and it is unclear whether he would fancy a move to Arsenal. The London club have struggled thus far for a high-level transfer breakthrough, having found that they need others to do business in order to unlock the stalemate.
Liverpool's interest in Willian ceased after Fenway Sports Group refused to pay above their valuation. The Anfield club were close to a £30m deal at the weekend only for an improved package from Spurs to prompt the owners to withdraw.
Rodgers said: "We identify the targets and then try and get the deal done financially. That's how it was. The club pushed as hard as they felt they could financially but it wasn't to be. "It's the owners' money and they will always have the final say because it's they who run the club. What they have taken on here is a huge job. You have seen over the last few years they will finance a project we are trying to develop and what we have to make sure of is we get the right players and the value and worth of the player is right. It's disappointing because this was a player who would have been perfect for us. It wasn't a football reason [why the deal collapsed] and I don't really want to go into it. That's for us as a club really. The bottom line is he hasn't come here for whatever reason and we move on."
Rodgers said only a week ago that Champions League qualification was a realistic demand of Liverpool but, should Spurs strengthen, he concedes the task will become even harder.
"The challenge is the same. This week hasn't changed it. What it has done is reinforced the clubs that are already in there," he said.
"Chelsea have won the Champions League and spent millions upon millions, Tottenham could spend up to 90-odd million and they are outside the Champions League. For us it is a huge, huge challenge, there's no doubt about that. But I don't want to be defeatist. We can't accept that. There's no doubt quality will cost you money. We just have to try to ensure we can get quality through the door and that will give us a chance for fourth. But make no mistake about it, it's a big ask and a big challenge."