Luis Suarez contract: Liverpool managing director travels to Barcelona to begin talks with agent over new deal
The newly crowned Football Supporters' Federation Player of the Year will be keen to leave Liverpool if the club cannot regain their Champions League pedigree for 2014-15
Luis Suarez will want to see whether the early promise of this Liverpool season solidifies into a genuine prospect of Champions League football before nailing his colours to the Anfield mast, but the club are wasting no time in beginning the courtship required to keep him. Ian Ayre, the club's managing director, flew to Barcelona to open talks with the Uruguayan's agent Pere Guardiola about a possible new contract.
Any such deal, extending beyond the two and a half years outstanding on his current contract, will make him the highest-paid player in the club's history. But Liverpool may very well have to play the long game, waiting until next spring or beyond before they can secure Europe's standout striker of the season. Nevertheless, there are reasons for optimism.
The inevitable barbs flew thick and fast on social media after Suarez had collected the public vote as Football Supporters' Federation Player of the Year on Monday night. For some, the Patrice Evra incident will never be forgiven and any kind of recognition for him is repugnant. But for those not consumed with hate, there was something deeply gratifying about the tangible sense of contentment in Suarez's eyes about this recognition by fans.
Say what you like about the mercenary aspect which will lead him to agitate to leave again if Liverpool cannot regain their Champions League pedigree for 2014-15, the Uruguayan's eagerness to embrace the FSF's event at the Emirates revealed that he craves plaudits, like so many in that strikers' union of sensitive souls. Suarez arrived early, lingered for two hours, spent half an hour posing for photographs and was willing to take the mischief in the questions put to him after he collected his prize. Useful for him that he'd missed the first five games of the season and been rested before he hit the Premier League season running, it was suggested. He grinned and agreed.
But buried in his interview was a very candid – and accurate – explanation of why he has been so much more of a threat this season. It is because he has no longer had to bear the weight of responsibility alone since Daniel Sturridge's arrival as a 20-goals-a-season striker. "When Liverpool don't play very well it is difficult," Suarez said. "You try your best on the pitch and don't win the game. If Liverpool don't have the players it is difficult and I don't continue at my level. But now they do and they help me."
Suarez did not entirely dismiss the idea of Liverpool winning the Premier League, even though he cautioned against early predictions. "The last four years we have been near the top four and this year it's going to be different. It's too early to say [if we can win the title] yet," he said.
All Liverpool can do while waiting to see if the initial promise of Brendan Rodgers' squad grows into something more permanent is make the right noises – and the 500,000 votes which made him best player, ahead of Robin van Persie, Leighton Baines, Christian Benteke, Juan Mata and Pablo Zabaleta, certainly helped that. The club may seek to press upon Suarez the increasingly prevalent view that he can become the greatest Liverpool player of all if he does stay for the long term.
Martin Tyler, who won the FSF commentator of the year prize, said the choice of Suarez was an "impeccable" one. There are no guarantees with Suarez and also the chance of an unexpected volte-face but he certainly looks like he is with Liverpool in spirit. And considering the place he occupied four months ago, that is certainly something.
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