Liverpool owner asks what are Arsenal ‘smoking’ when it comes to Suarez bid
LIVERPOOL owner John Henry has rowed in to the Luis Suarez transfer saga.
Taking to his Twitter account earlier today, the millionaire owner said: “What do you think they're smoking over there at Emirates?”
Although considered a tongue-in-cheek comment, it will be seen by many as a signal of intention to keep Suarez at Anfield and dismiss any further offers for the striker.
Henry’s comment was posted this morning – hours after Arsenal lodged cheeky bid to lure Uruguayan Suarez away from Anfield.
The Gunners stepped up their attempts to sign Suarez last night by lodging a bid of £40,000,001 – one pound above the £40m trigger clause in his Anfield contract.
The bid, made by Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis during a telephone conversation with Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre at the club’s Melbourne training base, was swiftly rejected by the Merseysiders, who remain insistent that Suárez will not be sold this summer.
Having signed a £100,000-a-week four-year deal at Liverpool last summer, Suárez’s advisor, Pere Guardiola, negotiated a clause in the 26-year-old’s contract which entitled the player to be informed of any future bid in excess of £40 million for him.
While the player’s camp may yet choose to interpret the clause as enabling Suárez to leave Liverpool should a bid greater than £40 million be received, the club remain insistent that the only obligation on their part is to relay information of any offer to Suárez, who is due to play against Melbourne Victory on Wednesday.
Suárez trained with his team-mates in front of 15,000 spectators at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last night before being informed of Arsenal’s latest bid - the London’s club’s third offer, having lodged bids of £25 million and £35 million in the past month
Although he was given a warm reception by Liverpool’s Australia-based fans, who chanted his name during the hour-long session, Suárez appeared subdued before waving to spectators as he left the pitch.
Brendan Rodgers is due to speak formally with Suárez after the friendly in Melbourne ion Wednesday to reiterate the club’s stance, and talks between Ayre and Guardiola are also expected at some stage in the next 24 hours.
Rodgers’ determination to resist offers for Suárez has been supported by the club’s American owners, who have given the Northern Irishman the mandate to hold firm on the ‘not for sale’ position in relation to the player.
Having noted Paris St-Germain’s £55 million signing of Napoli forward Edinson Cavani this month, Rodgers insisted that he rated Suárez in the same bracket as his Uruguay team-mate, hinting at a possible figure that would be acceptable for Liverpool.
Whether Arsenal would be prepared to stretch their interest to the point where they would break the British transfer record - currently Fernando Torres’s £50 million move from Liverpool to Chelsea - in order to sign Suárez remains to be seen, but it is believed to be highly unlikely.
Napoli, meanwhile, believe that they now have a £31 million deal in place for Arsenal’s other summer target Gonzalo Higuaín, so the north London club would have to act quickly if they want to keep that particular option alive if a deal for Suárez fell through.
Arsenal had a £23 million deal and personal terms agreed in principle with Real Madrid for Higuaín prior to the managerial appointment of Carlo Ancelotti but Real then upped their asking price. The risk now is that Arsenal could end up with none of their targets if they focus solely on Suárez.
Rodgers said yesterday that Suárez had shown no signs of discontent since arriving in Australia. “He was smiling and happy with all his mates when he arrived,” Rodgers said.
“He was glad to see them all again. He went round them and shook them by the hand. Knowing Luis as I do, he would play football all week, all day and all night, if he could so I’m sure he will want to play some part against Melbourne.”
Suárez is due to miss the first six games of the new season after serving just four matches of a 10-game suspension for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in April.
The former Ajax striker cited the negative media reaction to his attack on Ivanovic, and his subsequent ban, when publicly admitting his desire to leave Liverpool this summer.
But Rodgers insists the controversy surrounding Suárez had not affected his standing within the club. “He has stayed very much part of the squad, so he feels part of it and we are making sure he is going to be ready,” Rodgers said.
Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho has admitted that the squad is attempting to persuade him to stay at the club. And the January signing from Inter Milan claims that Suárez is as crucial to Liverpool’s prospects as Neymar, the rising star of world football, to Brazil.
“I have played with Neymar, he is a special player,” Coutinho said. “But for sure, you can make the comparison [with Suárez].
"They are two big names, two great players that move around the ground and score a lot of goals. They have different qualities.
"Neymar is more about dribbling and organising the attacks, but Suárez scores a lot of goals. You can’t compare them directly as players, but Luis is on a par with Neymar in terms of qualities, for sure.
“They are both exceptional players and we all hope that he stays. Everyone here wants to play with top footballers and that is exactly what Luis is. We have Luis and Steven Gerrard. Great players.
"All of the players want him to stay and we have been trying to persuade him to stay.”
Liverpool, meanwhile, remain keen to sign the Valencia full-back Aly Cissokho as Rodgers attempts to bolster his defensive options.