Rodgers Calls Arsenal's Bluff Over Suarez

Scott Barbour

The most unedifying of transfer stories blunders on, as Brendan Rodgers becomes more entrenched, Arsenal remain unrealistic and attitudes sour towards the Uruguayan striker amongst Liverpool fans.

There's no talking to some folk. You can tell them one thing but they'll hear whatever they want to hear. Whether or not Luis Suarez remains at Anfield next season, the man himself, aided and abetted by his representatives (Hi, Pere!), has left the fans of Liverpool Football Club in no doubt as to his desire to be elsewhere.

I admire loyal supporters, who back their player to the hilt, but a combination of plain speaking when it was unsolicited, and silence when some reassuring words would solve everything, have surely convinced all but the most benighted poor souls that Suarez wants to leave Liverpool.

When the rumblings started, as last season lurched to a conclusion, many were of a mind that, whilst it might be disastrous to lose the player, a goodly fee from the likes of Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, at least allowed the possibility of rebuilding and the chance to mitigate any damage to the squad's ambitions. The only thing that would be utterly unpalatable would be to see the star man move to a rival. That was highly unlikely, however, if the player's own words were to be believed.

After all, as Suarez began to break ranks and speak to the Uruguayan press, he was citing the intolerability of the press intrusion as the major factor in his entertainment of an Anfield exit. A move to Manchester, or worse, to London, would therefore surely be unthinkable for a player reviled outside of Liverpool and environs?

The home of the inimical press hardly seems like the place to move your young family, if it is their hounding that is forcing you to abandon an otherwise idyllic Merseyside arrangement. Sure, he would have liked to play Champions League football, but he loved the fans, his team-mates and the club. It was that pesky media -- they were to blame.

In fact, so ludicrous did it seem that Suarez would even consider a move to Arsenal, that some of us wrote satirical sketches mocking the London club and gently teasing the player. It was fine, we thought. He might go, but if he did we'd have a barrow-load of Bavarian or Spanish euros to spend on new toys. Suarez was a top lad, we thought. One of us, we thought. A streetballer, Jamie Redknapp thought. He'd never pull a Torres. Right? RIGHT?

Wrong. This is actually happening. Absurd as it may seem, Luis Suarez and Pere Guardiola -- for he is a major player in this -- are in discussions with a club who've won nothing since 2005 but who always play in the Champions League, thanks to Arsene Wenger's tremendously consistent standards. Brendan Rodgers, still enduring an idiotic amount of scorn from some of the clubs supporters, has handled this situation with dignity, and thus far he has been backed by a firm stance from the club, with even John Henry adding blithesome support via Twitter.

Responding to the latest derisory bid from the North Londoners, -- some Arsenal-employed wag felt that Liverpool wouldn't be offended by the apparently clause-triggering £40m plus £1 -- Rodgers maintained an admirable calm and eschewed any display of justified disdain for the official offer.

"For me, it's work as normal," the manager told the assembled press. "There is no change for Luis. He is a paid player at Liverpool Football Club, so he just needs to get on with getting himself fit. That's how it is. Until someone tells me something different, that is what all my concentration will be on. If Arsenal want the player, then they have to produce the value for he player. There was an offer a few weeks ago of £35m and two weeks later it is now £40m and £1. I don't think it is anything near the value of what he is worth. It's two-fold really. A player may want to go, but then somebody has to pay the value or worth of that player."

There are some obvious things to note from this, in my opinion. Rodgers language is unequivocal and on the border of aggressive. He is plainly irritated immensely by these developments but he correctly shifts the focus back on to Suarez by referring to the fact that he's a "paid player" who needs to "keep his professionalism" and get into the correct condition. He admits the whole affair is an unwanted "distraction" and is also more respectful than most would have managed to be in his references to Arsenal. They may be well within their rights and perfectly correct but their tactics stick in the craw. Asked whether or not Liverpool would shortly dismiss the whole concept of a move for Suarez, Rodgers stated flatly that "that period will come soon."

Rodgers went on to insist that the significance of the £40m clause was not as critical as it had been portrayed in the media. Whereas Guardiola's position is that an offer in excess of that magic number allows his client to fly the coop, Liverpool's belief is that they must simply inform the player and his agent of offers north of that amount. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between and we shall probably never find out the actual machinations.

For most of us, the whole sordid, dispiriting mess cannot end soon enough. Clearly there are different views amongst Liverpool's supporters and it's likely nobody will question the professionalism or effort of Luis Suarez, should he remain in Liverpool's employ into the next campaign. It is, however, a safe bet that the majority would like to think that those who don the red jersey are at least pleased to do so. It's not a massive ask, for a huge club with pretensions to recapture the glory days.

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