There is a tipping point in the relationship between every famous player and his club at which the latter have to stop wasting their energy in new ways to appease him and instead get him out the door for the best possible price. Liverpool have reached that point with Fernando Torres.
No shame in that. Manchester United found themselves in the same position with Cristiano Ronaldo; Arsenal eventually agreed to part with Thierry Henry and the smart money says that Manchester City will have to sell Carlos Tevez this summer. In all three cases the clubs have cajoled and negotiated with their star names, but only up to a point.
At the moment Liverpool are struggling to see a future beyond Torres, whose significance to the club goes beyond his ability to score goals. He is the last major world star who picked Anfield. He has a certain star quality about him. But if it's him encouraging Chelsea's £35m pursuit then ultimately the battle has already been lost.
Torres has demonstrated this season that he has little appetite for helping Liverpool extricate themselves from the mess that they find themselves in. The appointment of Kenny Dalglish as manager has embarrassed him into a slightly improved level of effort but that is relative to his woefully lacklustre performances under Roy Hodgson.
The memory that will stand out for me of Torres' last season at Liverpool -- if this is what it turns out to be -- will be the moment against Everton in October when Jamie Carragher roared at Torres for a pass that fell short. Torres put his finger to his lips to shush Carragher.
There can be little doubt that it was Torres' preference to join Chelsea in the summer and when that was denied to him he was never the same. Hodgson generously pondered in public what was wrong with his striker when it seemed obvious that Torres was sulking. Little surprise that his best game this season was against Chelsea.
Whether it is in the next three days or next summer, parting with Torres will be painful for Liverpool. The fans have built a mythology around him that implies he is as wedded to the place as they are. But even before the departure of Rafael Benitez -- the prime mover in bringing Torres to Anfield -- that view looked unrealistic.
Torres joined a club in 2007 that had contested two of the previous three Champions League finals. Now he finds himself at a club that considers seventh place at the end of January to be a sanctuary relative to where they were one month ago. This was not the mission he signed up for.
Losing Torres to Chelsea would be a blow to the esteem of Liverpool and should it happen before Monday the prospect of him playing for Chelsea in tomorrow week's game would ensure that one of the club's favourite sons had the sourest of departures. But it would not be the disaster that so many have predicted.
In the short-term Liverpool have already signed Luis Suarez as a replacement and, if Daniel Sturridge is part of the deal, then he at least gives Dalglish another option in attack.
Should Torres leave in the summer, then it gives Liverpool the freedom and resources to rebuild. Once they have grasped the nettle, Liverpool's owners might feel that vanquishing the uncertainty around Torres is liberating.
In the years since Patrick Vieira and Henry left, Arsenal have won no silverware but it cannot be denied that in terms of the players' waning powers, Arsene Wenger picked exactly the right time to sell. Having negotiated the world record transfer fee for Ronaldo, United won only the Carling Cup last season, although they are well-placed in the title race this year.
As for Torres, even at the height of his powers in the 2008-09 season he could not propel Liverpool to the Premier League title. They have won nothing while he has been at the club so despite his undoubted qualities as a player it is not as if they are giving up on a winning formula by letting him go.
It was nice while it lasted. But £35m for a 26-year-old who has had barely a handful of decent games all season and was overshadowed at the World Cup is a good deal -- however painful it might feel to Liverpool today.
As a public relations exercise, selling your marquee name to a rival club is always a difficult one to pull off. It requires decisive leadership and the unwavering belief that you have the right transfer strategy, both of which John Henry and FSG promised they had when they took over the club in October.
The question for them now is: are they brave enough to back themselves and take the money? (© Independent News Service)