Suárez was the only member of Liverpool‘s first-team squad not to attend a testimonial dinner for Steven Gerrard on Saturday, having earlier received a warm reception from the Anfield crowd during a 2-0 friendly defeat of Olympiakos. The gala dinner at ACC Liverpool was part of the captain’s efforts to raise more than £1m for his charitable foundation.
Suárez and his representatives believe the 26-year-old should be allowed to open talks with Arsenal after they offered £40,000,001 almost a fortnight ago. Liverpool insist a bid over £40m entitles Suárez to be informed of rival interest and for the club to enter negotiations if they wish but nothing more. And Rodgers has described the sum offered as disrespectful as he reiterated Liverpool’s intention to hold the Uruguay international to a further 12 months of a contract that has three years remaining.
“I was surprised,” said the Liverpool manager of Arsenal’s second bid for Suárez. “I’ve got to say I’ve always associated Arsenal as a club with class and so there was a wee bit of a game there. For us, it’s about moving on and doing our own work. There will come a point where they understand our position. Obviously they have an interest and they put that interest in with two bids which were nowhere near what the player is worth. That’s within their right. There is a market in football for players but from us the message is constant. We do not want to sell.”
Suárez has told Liverpool he wishes to join a club in the Champions League, having previously claimed he wanted to leave England due to criticism from the media. Rodgers insists Liverpool have control of the transfer saga and that the club’s owner, Fenway Sports Group, is not looking to cash in on the outstanding but controversial forward.
Rodgers, who spoke to the principal owner, John W Henry, about Suárez on Friday, said: “I’m extremely confident that Luis will be here [next season]. The offers have come in as you would expect for one of the world’s leading strikers but as time goes by I’m gaining more confidence because I have a chance to be with him on a day-to-day basis and he gets the chance to be around his team-mates. We’re in total control of the situation as a club and that’s how it will remain.
“The owners have been brilliant. If it was another club needing the money or desperate for the money it could have been a different story. But John Henry and Tom [Werner, the chairman] have been first class through the whole process, so there are no arguments there and it gives you the confidence they are not in any hurry to sell because they understand we are trying to build here.”
Rodgers refused to divulge details of his conversations with Suárez since the club rejected Arsenal’s £40,000,001 offer. “Any conversations with a player are private,” he said, while admitting all players have their price and that Real Madrid’s world record offer for Gareth Bale exposed the weakness of Arsenal’s move for Suárez.
The manager said: “Gareth Bale is a wonderful player and if they are prepared to pay that money, that’s where he is, but there is no way he is 100% better than Luis Suárez. But it’s not something we want to entertain this year. We understand it could be different next summer. A player with two years left on his contract is totally different but Luis has three and we want to bring people in to play around and with him so we can sustain a challenge this year. That’s the simplicity of it. I know the board are standing strong and I know where I am at and Luis knows exactly what my thinking is. From speaking with the club and the board there is no actual date [on a cut-off point] but certainly there is a timeline beyond which you would never sell, and really we are at that stage now because it is so close to the start of the season. We’re focused on Luis being here and getting more in so we are part of the conversation about being at the top of the table.”
Arsène Wenger feels Arsenal have acted with respect and class towards Liverpool during their attempts to sign Suárez. “We try to do it properly,” the manager said on Sunday. “A transfer is always an agreement between three parties and we have always done that until now.”
Liverpool’s attempts to get players in include a £21.8m bid for Diego Costa of Atlético Madrid and they are hopeful the Brazilian striker will this week inform the Spanish club he wants to move to Merseyside. Liverpool had also agreed a fee with Benfica for Lorenzo Melgarejo but Rodgers has cooled on a move for the left-back. The manager wants either Guilherme Siqueira of Granada or Valencia’s Aly Cissokho to increase the competition on José Enrique.