Last night the Guardian released an interview with Liverpool's Luis Suarez, noted Arsenal target, wherein he claimed that Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers had, both in contract and in word, promised to let him leave the club this summer if they failed to qualify for the Champions League. He also says that he has the backing of the Professional Footballers' Association, and is prepared to go to the Premier League should he not be let out.
This, again, is based in a belief, clearly held in the Suarez camp as well as at Arsenal, that the fabled £40 million clause in his contract is in fact a release clause of some kind - rather than the negotiation catalyst that Liverpool and Rodgers claim. A lot depends on this, and will probably hinge on how a court feels about it. Like we've said in the past, I'll trust Arsenal's management over Liverpool's in general, but there is certainly a non-zero possibility that we will actually have to raise a bid to get him. If it's going to happen, I'd rather it be for £40 million and one than, say, £50-60 million, but we'll just have to wait and see on that part.
Throughout the piece Suarez makes attempts to praise and appreciate Liverpool and the fans for their support, and says he doesn't feel "betrayed" by the club. He also says that he'd be happy "playing in England for many more years," which is surely intended to allay fears that in two years or so he'd be doing all this again to try to go to Real Madrid, or something like that.
This is a really weird, awkward situation to be in as an Arsenal fan. On the one hand, I really don't like Luis Suarez very much - his foibles are well-documented, and range from "annoying" to "intolerable." Additionally, this is, in many ways, simply our Robin van Persie situation from last year, only the positions are reversed. It's hard to get that excited or happy when a guy you find distasteful runs basically the same playbook that you railed against 13 months ago. In fact, it's almost impossible. And while I usually don't, I feel pretty bad for Liverpool fans. I know how this feels, and it's awful.
But it's indisputable that Suarez is a really good player, and one I think would fit in well at Arsenal (on the field, at least). Everything else aside, I'd be ebullient to get a player with his talent and production. And it is, at the very least, more enjoyable to be on this side of the horrible soul-crushing transfer saga for once. After the past few summers, it's a little hard to believe, but it's certainly a step up. Still, though, it's a bit dark.
Luis Suarez is burning bridges at Liverpool. Whether they stay burned, and whether they end up leading to Arsenal - that all remains to be seen. But this does appear to be another step forward on the march.