Why Won't Liverpool Let Luis Suárez Leave? [UPDATE]

Man, this Luis Suárez transfer saga just got nasty. Yesterday, The Guardian published a story about the Liverpool superstar's fight to leave the club. In it, Suárez publicly calls out Liverpool's owners for being a bunch of lying liars who are reneging on their contract. But the article fails to shed much light on the dispute itself. It seems that still, no one—maybe not Suárez himself—knows what his contract even says.

Some context: Liverpool striker Luis Suárez is one of the top three players in the Premier League, and the only consistent match-winner on his squad. But last season, after the English media rode the striker for being a racist, a biter, and just an all-around laughably bad role model, Suárez said he wanted out of the country. That sucked for Liverpool, because they have no one else capable of carrying the team on a weekly basis like the Uruguayan. Even with Suárez playing out of his mind last year and outperforming £100 million man Gareth Bale, who swept the postseason awards, Liverpool finished seventh, 12 points off of a Champions League spot and 28 points behind league champions Manchester United.

Suárez's departure would lame Liverpool, which would regress to a squad of supplemental players with no star to play through. But worse things have happened. Liverpool's front office and faithful seemed almost resigned to their fate, until Premier League rivals Arsenal bid for Suárez. That can't happen.

This story is the most important transfer story in the Premier League. Bale is even more valuable to Tottenham than Suárez is to Liverpool, but Bale's main suitors, Real Madrid, are out of the country in another league. If Suárez moved to Arsenal, it would be a direct transfer of power. The gap between the two would widen. Arsenal would be inch closer to challenging for titles, while Liverpool, who scored a coup by signing the Uruguayan from Ajax two and a half years ago, would have to rebuild all over again, though with fewer recent accomplishments, and therefore less clout, to do it with.

So, hell no. But Suárez, who's just entering his prime and wants to compete in the Champions League, feels he'd be wasting his career at Anfield. The problems really started when Arsenal bid £40,000,001 for the striker. Because there's supposedly a clause in his contract that's triggered when a club bids over £40 million. The dispute is what exactly the clause says.

"They gave me their word a year ago and now I want them to honour that," Suárez told The Guardian. "And it is not just something verbal with the coach but something that is written in the contract."

The striker claims that a team bid for him last year, but Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers talked him into staying an extra season. They had a gentleman's agreement that if Liverpool didn't qualify for the Champions League, Suárez could go. Suárez also says that the £40 million clause is a release clause, and if a team bid as much, he could move on.

Liverpool, however, say, that a £40 million bid only means that they have to notify Suárez of the interest, which they did, and that his actual valuation is much higher.

In addition to that is the Champions League agreement. Arsenal, who finished fourth last year, qualified for the tournament, but they have yet to qualify for the group stages. They must first play a qualifying round match later this month to see if they make it. Liverpool are taking the stand that Arsenal are not technically in the tournament yet, and so they won't let Suárez go to the Gunners unless they win in the qualifying round.

It's gotten uglier in recent days. Suárez has enlisted the Professional Footballers' Association to help him escape. And like Bale, who's trying to push through a move to Madrid, Suárez just picked up a minor injury, which is the closest thing in soccer to an NFL-style holdout.

Liverpool fans are saying that Suárez isn't showing loyalty, but let's dispense with the idea that an athlete who was bought by a club and therefore can be sold at any time should or even can have loyalty approaching that of a supporter. And now, Suárez and Liverpool are at an impasse. With only a few weeks left until the end of the summer transfer window and Arsenal waiting to move, the question is whether the Uruguayan will win out, or Liverpool can hold on long enough to keep the player at the club. It's generally a terrible idea to pay and play someone who doesn't want to be there, but for Liverpool, the alternative is much scarier.

UPDATE: Huge news has just broken in England regarding Luis Suárez's potential transfer, which largely revolves around the possible £40 million release clause in his contract. The chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, Gordon Taylor, says that the clause does not require Liverpool to sell if someone breaches a bid of £40 million.

What there is, according to Taylor, is a clause that says if Liverpool don't make the Champions League, there has to be a conversation if another club approaches with a £40 million bid. But there's nothing in it that says Liverpool have to sell.

Though the actual wording of the agreement is tricky, Liverpool definitely don't have to sell their best player if they don't want to. The only thing Suárez can try to do now is force his way out, as he's under contract. But with the transfer window coming to a close, he might not be able to in time.

[The Guardian]

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