Liverpool must keep Luis Suárez to stay in touch with the elite

It would be a grievous setback if the Anfield club lost their prolific Uruguayan striker, whatever the sums of money involved

A few years ago, when things were not going quite so well for Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant manager at the time, Carlos Queiroz, appeared to accuse the team's fans of "stupidity" in an interview with the Portuguese daily O Jogo. United had been experimenting with a one-striker system and a lot of supporters did not like it. There had been chants demanding a return to 4-4-2. Queiroz, in response, said: "This is why football is a game in which imagination and, in many cases, stupidity has no limits."

The subsequent back-tracking was immense. United put out a statement saying the comments had been "falsely translated". Queiroz described it as "a blatant attempt to divide the club". Calls to Portugal confirmed the quotes were word perfect. It was still there on the O Jogo website: "Por isso é que o futebol é um jogo em que a imaginação e, muitas vezes, a estupidez não têm limite." Yet United, to this day, insist they were misinterpreted.

This is why it is not entirely easy to know how seriously to take it when Liverpool's chief executive, Ian Ayre, says Luis Suárez's remarks about potentially considering offers from Champions League clubs in the summer were mistranslated or if it was actually just something his club would rather he had kept to himself.

Suárez has previously stated that he wants to stay at Anfield, yet his comments on international duty with Uruguay were entirely feasible, without being particularly disloyal, and it does stick in the craw sometimes when a club rush out the lost-in-translation card, almost as a default setting, every time a player goes back to his own country and says something a little off-message. Almost always it's a cop-out.

It isn't difficult, though, to understand why Liverpool are sensitive to the idea that Suárez might be outgrowing them. A club this size have not lost their ambition just because they have been playing a game of catch-up these past few years and Suárez is so fundamental to the next stage of recovery there is no point understating the significance of what it would mean to lose him. Steven Gerrard was not making it up recently when he rated Suárez as the best footballer he had ever played alongside. It would be a grievous setback, whatever the sums of money involved.

An element of this is hypothetical, of course, until any of Suárez's admirers harden up their interest, but it would be naive to think that process might not be far away and that a club that have, once again, fallen short of where they want to be are not vulnerable when he is playing with such sustained brilliance. Suárez's blend of ingenuity, competitive courage and ability to penetrate the most accomplished defences, coupled with his increasingly refined marksmanship, makes him an outstanding candidate for the footballer of the year awards.

Liverpool have not qualified for the Champions League since 2009, but now have a player who has scored 29 goals in 40 games for the club this season, as well as eight more in 10 World Cup qualifiers for Uruguay (for a measure of his talent, watch his volley against Paraguay on Friday). Brendan Rodgers's team are seventh with 30 games played. After 20, they were 10th; after 10, 13th. This long, uphill climb has left them 29 points off the top. Of course they are going to be vulnerable.

What happens if a big club come calling will reveal a lot about the modern-day Liverpool. Put simply, if they want to challenge the Manchester clubs, or at least get significantly closer, it is imperative they pull down the shutters and make it clear they will not do business at any price. It's just that it is not easy sometimes when there is an elite band of clubs with the financial power, trophy potential and persuasive charms to tempt the star performers from clubs that are on a level slightly lower. Liverpool should know all about that. They did, after all, not long ago once belong to this number.

Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League in 15 successive seasons yet still routinely find themselves in the position in which they have to watch their better players move on, sometimes to direct rivals. Tottenham Hotspur are desperate to be regarded as a serious club but combine this with selling Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov and Luka Modric, and, quite possibly, Gareth Bale next. Liverpool had never really been in this position before until Fernando Torres went to Chelsea and, presumably, they don't particularly care for it. They can offer Suárez significant wealth, the reverence of their crowd and the sense of togetherness that has helped him through the least distinguished moments. What they cannot offer are the glories that potentially lie elsewhere and, as long as that is the case, they run the risk of losing the player who carries their greatest hopes.

Maybe that is doing an injustice to the bond that exists between player and club and the undeniable sense that, ideally, he would love to achieve his ambitions on Merseyside. A personal feeling is that his affinity with that red shirt is sufficiently strong that he will resist any offers this summer and then, if the Champions League eludes Liverpool again next season, there would be considerably less opposition to him leaving.

That, however, is just a hunch, whereas the reality is that every club who can afford him – and, heck, he wouldn't come cheap – will want to know what it would take to change Liverpool's mind this summer. The answer has to be nothing. That is, if Liverpool want to remind us why the Premier League is generally a better place when the team from Anfield are more prominently involved.

Menace of England's zombie mentality

How about this for the makings of a pretty good team? Gary Neville at right-back, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry in the centre of defence, and Ashley Cole at left-back. Owen Hargreaves and Phil Neville could be the two defensive midfielders, with Frank Lampard pushing on through the middle, John Barnes on the left, David Beckham on the right and Peter Crouch in attack.

All we need now is a goalkeeper and that would be a full XI of the players England supporters have singled out for boos and other forms of abuse at one stage or another. That's even before we get to Stewart Downing, David Bentley, Chris Waddle and quite a few others – even Steven Gerrard, if we go back to that infamous game against Andorra in 2007.

In Ferdinand's case, a particular favourite of the fans was the song about sticking him and his brother, Anton, on a bonfire and then "burn the fucking lot". It's a zombie mentality, it isn't going to change and, after a certain amount of time, eventually you get conditioned to it. But maybe Carlos Queiroz was right (see above). In football, stupidity appears to have no limits sometimes.

Touré's agent and the Del Boy approach

The comments from Yaya Touré's agent asking for a new contract from Manchester City by this weekend, and threatening to look for another club if it was not forthcoming, were about as subtle as that moment in Only Fools and Horses when Del Boy introduced himself to a female antiques dealer by slapping her bottom and asking: "Fancy a curry?"

The difference is Del got a "yes" whereas City, quite rightly, have declined Dimitri Seluk's generous proposal bearing in mind Touré already has a deal not far off £200,000 a week until 2015 and, funnily enough, the club's priorities at the moment are more about trying to get a little nearer Manchester United and preventing a difficult season from getting any worse.

Seluk is plainly in a great rush. This was him speaking on Tuesday: "If he signs a contract in the next three or four days, OK. If not, we will not wait any longer and will start negotiations with different clubs. We will say: 'Thank you, OK, Yaya will leave in May.'" It almost makes you think he stands to make a few quid out of it himself.

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