Liverpool's Luis Suarez has issued the words which are his club and manager's worst nightmare – that if another team with better prospects of competing in the Champions League approached him this summer, "they are very welcome".
The 26-year-old, who has carried the side for much of the season, will have put Europe's top clubs on alert with his comments, made in his native Uruguay. Bayern Munich, whose next coach Pepe Guardiola is the brother of Suarez's own agent, Pere, would be the prime contenders. Juventus and Manchester City are also likely to consider a move for the striker.
Liverpool, who have worked hard to insure against bidders with a new contract for Suarez worth £100,000 a week including extras, will seek an understanding of precisely what he meant when he spoke about his future, ahead of Uruguay's World Cup qualifier with Paraguay on Friday. But though the player reiterated that he's "very happy" at Anfield, echoing repeated pledges he has made in recent months, his assertion that he might consider alternative offers does seem unequivocal.
"I am very happy at Liverpool but you never know in football," he said. "A player's ambition is always there, the ambition of wanting to play in elite teams is always there. I'm in a world-class team, an elite team like Liverpool. We have to realise we have a new manager who is imposing a philosophy and a way of playing that the players are adapting to as best we can. We hope that it will bear fruit next year.
"If another team comes around with more prospects of competing in international club competition games, which is willing to have me, they are welcome. We would talk to the club, we would see if I want to go, if I don't want to go."
Suarez admitted his behaviour has let him down at times during his career but said he had consciously sought to clean up his act on the pitch. "I have a very strange way of playing football," he said. "I'm my own severest critic and I realise when I make mistakes. You can lose some things, but you can never lose the slyness, the passion that you have had since you were a kid playing in the street. If I didn't have the character that I have today on the pitch, I don't think that I would have become the player that I am today."
Suarez, who has scored 29 goals this season, did acknowledge the part Brendan Rodgers has played in inculcating a passing philosophy at the club. "I'm in a world-class team, an elite team like Liverpool," he said. "We have to realise we have a new manager who is imposing a philosophy and a way of playing that the players are adapting to as best we can. We hope that it will bear fruit next year."
He is under contract at Anfield until 2017 but the side, who lie seventh in the Premier League, are nine points off fourth place with another Europa League campaign seemingly their only realistic aspiration for next season.Reuse content