Liverpool claim striker's comments about being open to offers were 'lost in translation' but in reality they make perfect sense
Usually the errant player rolls out the "lost in translation" excuse when words spoken on international duty land them in it. On Thursday it was employed by Liverpool's managing director, Ian Ayre, in response to Luis Suárez's admission that he will consider his options this summer. Liverpool fans can only hope Brendan Rodgers has constructed a more convincing argument to assuage fears their one world-class striker could be on his way.
Unusually, Ayre did the rounds of the BBC the morning after Suárez's signal to suitors. He echoed Rodgers' recent conviction that the Uruguay international will be a Liverpool player next season and the club's insistence that the 26-year-old is not for sale. The appearances on Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast, however, reflected a club thrown on to the defensive by the frankness of their prized asset and keen to demonstrate that, should Suárez ultimately go, it will be on account of a U-turn on his part.
According to Liverpool's managing director, the comments "may have been a bit lost in translation". In truth, they all make perfect sense from a player in stunning form, who knows he will not be short of offers from leading European clubs this summer, who has embraced Liverpool but is facing his third season without Champions League football at the club. It would be the club's fourth season outside the European elite and even Europa League qualification is in doubt after Saturday's defeat at Southampton left Liverpool five points adrift of fifth-placed Arsenal, having played a game more.
There would have been greater surprise had Suárez travelled home to Uruguay in the wake of the Southampton defeat and emphatically ruled out the prospect of joining a Champions League club this summer. Liverpool, he admitted before the World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Chile, are "in a difficult moment". The alarm for Liverpool lay in the answer about his future. "You never know in football," said Suárez. "A player's ambition is always there, the ambition of wanting to play in elite teams is always there. I'm in a world-class team, an elite team like Liverpool. And if another team comes around with more prospects of competing in international club competition games, which is willing to have [me], they are welcome. We would talk to the club, we would see if I want to go, if I don't want to go."
Suárez did precisely that last summer. He considered the advances of the Italian champions Juventus, who remain interested, and spurned them in favour of a new contract with Liverpool until 2017. The performance-related deal has been worth over £100,000-a-week to the Premier League's leading goalscorer this season.
The striker committed to Liverpool before he had played a competitive game under Rodgers, a manager with much to prove upon his arrival at Anfield but who Suárez was prepared to give a chance, knowing full well that he was signing up to a long-term overhaul under Fenway Sports Group. Despite the hyperbole that follows every Liverpool victory, Champions League qualification was always a long shot.
Individually, though not collectively, Suárez has enjoyed his finest season under the new Liverpool manager. His record of 29 goals in 40 appearances is staggering, yet his influence on the campaign is not measured by those statistics. Liverpool would have hovered around the lower reaches of the table, their new manager besieged as he implemented a change in style, without Suárez thriving on the challenge of carrying the attack almost single-handedly until January.
The former Ajax captain has also spoken frequently of the debt he feels he owes Liverpool for standing by him throughout the Patrice Evra controversy, and others, at a cost to their own reputation. Crucially, his family have also settled well in the city.
Whether all this convinces Suárez to stay depends on the calibre of offer he receives, how close he feels Liverpool are to competing for honours under Rodgers and the quality of the reinforcements his manager makes this summer. The Liverpool manager has not been an unqualified success in the transfer market so far, though his scouting department is now fully functional in contrast to last pre-season, and costs are being cut at Anfield. Liverpool reported a loss of £40.5m for the 10-month period ending 31 May 2012 but, despite the prospect of another season without Champions League riches, Rodgers is under no financial pressure to sell Suárez. As this campaign has demonstrated, Liverpool cannot afford to. They no longer appear equipped to replace one coveted European striker with another, as was the case with Fernando Torres and Suárez in January 2011.
Rodgers met Suárez's agent, Pere Guardiola, for the first time last month and left the meeting convinced that the Uruguay international would remain under contract at Liverpool, not that Pep's brother is cooking up a move to Bayern Munich.
"Is he deserving of playing at that Champions League level?" said the Liverpool manager at the time. "Of course he is, but I would be confident enough that he will be here because he is enjoying his football. He [Pere] is a good guy. I was talking about the future and development and he was reciprocal in the conversation that Luis is loving it here. He has really enjoyed the season – the most productive since he has been here. He is enjoying the style and the way of working. His desire is to see Liverpool progress and that is why he signed last summer. I don't feel or see anything different that would change my mind."
Though it appears Suárez's mind is understandably open.