Arsene Wenger ready to derail Liverpool's move for Alexis Sanchez
A tug of war between Arsenal and Liverpool over the future of Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez could determine how swiftly Luis Suarez realises his ambition to leave Anfield for Spain.
Arsenal are hoping to derail Liverpool's plans to part-exchange Suarez for Chile international Sanchez and believe the player would prefer a move to London.
Liverpool, however, have been given no indication Sanchez would snub Merseyside and obtaining his services was an essential element of what were described as "productive and realistic" preliminary negotiations over Suarez's sale to Barcelona yesterday.
Liverpool opened talks when an Anfield delegation, including chief executive Ian Ayre, met Nou Camp director Raul Sanllehi in London.
Further talks are planned over the next few days with Liverpool sources indicating conversations included "sensible expectations on both sides".
As yet, no deal is in place but the positive vibes from Merseyside indicate Barcelona will meet Liverpool's valuation, most likely if Sanchez is part of the package.
The Merseyside club have made their position clear from the outset, unwilling to sell Suarez unless the valuation inserted in his current contract is met.
The inclusion of Sanchez, who is rated at around £30m, would ensure Barcelona could offer significantly less cash for the player, probably around the £40m mark.
If the Chilean is not interested in an Anfield move the matter will be complicated but Liverpool will believe conversations over Sanchez's future would not have advanced to this stage if he was not willing to join them.
That won't stop Arsenal maintaining their interest in the forward, who has shone over the past three weeks in Brazil and become one of the most coveted strikers to emerge from the World Cup.
Arsene Wenger made the Chile and Barcelona striker his main summer transfer target and an initial bid of around £22m is understood to have been made.
Arsenal have the funds to go higher and are actively trying to prevent Sanchez being used as a makeweight for Suarez's proposed move from Liverpool to Spain.
Although it might suit both Liverpool and Barcelona for Sanchez to be part of the Suarez deal, Arsenal know that the final decision will ultimately rest with the player.
Despite Liverpool's Premier League title push, Arsenal hope to persuade Sanchez that they represent a better long-term option.
They will also stress the opportunity to play alongside some of the most creative players in the Premier League, including Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott.
Brendan Rodgers, for his part, can offer guaranteed Champions League football – Arsenal must play a qualifier in August – and the promise of Suarez's soon-to-be-vacant, iconic No 7 jersey.
If Sanchez opts for the Emirates, Liverpool will demand a straight cash fee for Suarez and negotiations could drag on.
The Uruguayan has managed to link the Merseyside and London club for the second successive summer, albeit inadvertently this year. Relations between Arsenal and Liverpool became strained last summer when Arsenal made a rejected £40m-plus £1 bid for the controversial striker.
Wenger is determined to add an established world-class striker to his side this summer, and despite ongoing interest in Mario Balotelli, Karim Benzema and Alvaro Morata, has identified Sanchez as his main target.
On Sanchez, Barca's director Andoni Zubizarreta confirmed several bids.
"Regarding the future of Alexis Sanchez, there have been offers for the player," he said.
"But I do not know how it will all end – we are looking for a solution which will be best for everyone."
Wenger has a £100m transfer budget to play with this summer, but also wants to sign a right-back, a holding midfielder and another goalkeeper.
Should Belgian international defender Thomas Vermaelen leave, he would also need further cover at centre-back. (©Daily Telegraph, London)