Brendan Rodgers was in Melbourne when news arrived of the most insulting pound thrown at Liverpool by Arsenal since Jamie Carragher was struck by a coin at Highbury in 2002. Preparing for a pre-season friendly before 95,000 fans at the MCG, the Liverpool manager was shown confirmation of Arsenal's latest offer for Luis Suárez by the managing director Ian Ayre: £40,000,001. "We looked at it and laughed," recalls Rodgers. Liverpool can afford to smile now.
Third in the table, two points behind the league leaders and with their manager predicting a sustained challenge for Champions League qualification for the first time since 2009-10, Liverpool's hardline stance on Suárez is gaining merit by the week. Last weekend the Uruguay international scored a hat-trick, taking his tally to six goals in four games, as Rodgers' team turned in their finest overall display of the campaign so far against West Bromwich Albion. On Saturday Liverpool can underline those Champions League credentials, and suggest perhaps even more, at Arsenal's expense at the Emirates Stadium. That cheeky pound can take some of the credit if they do.
A brief moment of brevity in Australia apart, Liverpool were deeply offended by the bid that Arsenal believed would trigger a £40m-plus release clause in Suárez's contract. Almost four months on it still seems extraordinary that a club of Arsenal's stature, a player of Suárez's ambition and an agent of Pere Guardiola's experience could misinterpret such a key clause. As Liverpool's principal owner John W Henry tweeted at the time: "What do you think they're smoking over there at Emirates?"
Henry and Rodgers had resolved not to strengthen a Premier League team's top four prospects at Liverpool's expense by selling Suárez, though Arsenal continued dialogue in the two weeks between their initial £35m offer and the £40,000,001 nail in that transfer coffin.
Bitter recrimination followed, not only between the two clubs but Suárez and Liverpool, with the striker accusing his manager of breaking a promise over his future and being ordered to train away from the first-team squad until his attitude improved. It is clear, despite Rodgers' insistence on Thursday that the episode will not add spice to Saturday's fixture, that some resentment lingers.
The Liverpool manager said: "I think Arsenal were ill advised on that bid, to say the least. Arsenal as a football club always had great integrity historically and so, when that bid came through, I can only say it was one of the worst pieces of information they ever received, from whoever it was. It was never going to succeed but of course you do have to chance your arm. At the time we certainly saw the bid as derogatory. The two clubs have historically had class, it has been the hallmark of both clubs, but whether it was £40m and one pound or £40m and one pence our fight was always to keep him here because he is a top player."
Arsène Wenger, on the other hand, admits the bid was "not the most subtle thing we have done but it was not meant to be provocative at all". The Arsenal manager added: "It could be interpreted like that but it was not our purpose. It was one of the transfers that did not work and, in every club, you have two or three but there is no need afterwards to speak about it."
Derogatory it might have been for a player of Suárez's quality, albeit a player whose baggage ensured Arsenal were the only club to make an official offer to Liverpool this summer, but the Premier League has been enriched by the £40,000,001 bid. Liverpool kept one world-class star and Arsenal signed a £42.5m alternative in Mesut Özil, reversing the talent drain to Spain and ending the fractious moralising over Suárez among their fanbase.
Both clubs have moved on swiftly, the competition at the Premier League summit has increased and in Liverpool's case it is Suárez who merits a large share of credit.
Liverpool's progress this season commenced before the 26-year-old returned from suspension but, where others would have responded to the club's stance with disruption, Suárez has offered unquestionable commitment and class alongside Daniel Sturridge. Liverpool are a stronger club and team for, like Carragher 11 years ago, throwing the pound back in Arsenal's direction.
Reflecting on the summer, Rodgers said: "As a manager the job is obviously about managing individuals but you have got to protect the club. I'm sure the senior players, indeed all the players, are looking to the manager in a situation like that to see what happens. It cannot fester and be allowed to become a cancer within the group.
"No matter how difficult the situation was, we were leading up to our first game of the season having had a brilliant pre-season and nothing could be allowed to stand in the way of our preparation for that. As we said at the time, no one was going to be bigger than the club and we had the opportunity to show that we are a big club. The status and the power of Liverpool is greater than anyone.
"But you have to give Luis huge credit as well. Probably many players would not have reacted as he has done. He eventually accepted the situation, got back to his work, rejoined his team-mates and has been outstanding in his work ethic and desire since then. He missed those first five league games but is up near the top of the goalscoring chart already. For me, I see an improvement in his game and a maturity in his overall personality."
While Rodgers can proclaim Suárez and Sturridge as the best strike partnership in the Premier League, Wenger remains heavily reliant on one striker, Olivier Giroud, to sustain Arsenal's challenge until the transfer window reopens in January. The Liverpool manager could not resist one final dig on that score.
"It may become difficult if you lose that one striker," said Rodgers. "I'd think Arsène Wenger will look to get a striker in [in January] and will be hoping and praying that he doesn't get any injuries. And he's obviously got … Nicklas Bendtner."