As your author, allow me to take you on a quick journey back in time, specifically to July 19th, 2013. The Luis Suarez Transfer Saga was entering DEFCON 6, with Arsenal in the final stages of preparing one of the most famous transfer bids of all-time. Suarez himself had just arrived for Liverpool preseason training in Melbourne and, probably due to instruction from his agents, started to sulk and look highly-disinterested. Standard operating procedure for a player looking to escape to greener grounds.
On that day, a specific writer at these esteemed pages decided to call out Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers for making ludicrous, devoid-of-thought statements regarding what defines "a buyout clause" and even going as far to suggest that such a thing wasn't in Suarez's current contract.
Naturally, Liverpool fans came out of the woodwork to suggest that it was the writer, not their Mr. Potato Head lookalike manager, who had rocks for brains, that there wasn't a buyout clause which led to one of the most infamous TSF catchphrases ever, "90 seconds of research." A few notable Reds commenters attempted to have a reasonable, rational conversation about it on that fateful day, however, most of them showed up here for the first time and further defined the negative stereotype that many other fanbases have regarding them.
Life moved on, we've had plenty of fun with the "90 seconds" phrase here and it's been a great thing to throw back-and-forth in other threads and discussions. The writer, or so I'm told, took it on the chin in good nature, especially after the Professional Footballers' Association decided in favor of Liverpool when Suarez's contract language was brought to them for final interpretation. Arsenal ended up buying a world-class midfielder, Luis Suarez got the pay raise he was most certainly after, and all was well and water well under the bridge.
Liverpool owner John Henry, speaking at the annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, amusingly re-told the story of the Suarez transfer story, but included this little gold nugget of truth:
Liverpool owner John Henry has confirmed Luis Suarez did have a £40m buy-out clause in his last contract. http://t.co/fUhZelQhg6— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) March 3, 2014
Oh, what's that? There was a buyout clause? You mean, that handsome, intelligent writer who's probably saved the lives of millions of impoverished children with his billion-watt smile and sense of humor was right all along?
Well on behalf of that charming sonofabitch, I'd like to pass along a message to everyone who filled the comments section of that day and many others following that, who took to Twitter to send him direct messages filled with rather interesting comments questioning why he would write such a thing and many other mentions mocking him and his ability to put together common thoughts into words.
Whew. That felt good. No, that felt great. Amazing, actually.
There's nothing Arsenal can really do other than never do business with Henry and Co. again. Luis Suarez could have done more if he really wanted out. Just like Henry and Rodgers pulled off such an audacious, bold move in laughing off a bid that came in one pound more than his release clause, Suarez could have acted on the principals of the matter.
7amkickoff gets this right, I believe, when discussing the timing of the transfer saga. He speculates the clause came to light only when Arsenal were all but ready to announce Gonzalo Higuain's transfer from Real Madrid, a club Suarez has been rumored to go to for quite some time. We all know how that one played out, but had Higuain moved away from Madrid to Arsenal in early July like we all thought, that would have left quite the space to be filled by another striker. Instead, there was still cash to be burned by another Champions League and the links to Suarez began in earnest.
He could have not flown out to Australia. He could have decided to not dress with the club for trainings, he could have continued to sulk and he could have continued to use the media to further drive a wedge between himself and Liverpool. After all, Arsenal did meet the mutually agreed-upon number (turns out they were smoking some valid shit at Colney, eh?), and while it wasn't a clause that meant he had to move, it was a clause that meant he could push an agreement with Arsenal forward. Instead he stalled, unlike many other players in his delicate position before. No one pushed him out to train with Liverpool, no one pushed him out to play with them in matches. If there's anyone who has a legal leg to stand on at this time, it's not Arsenal. It's Luis Suarez.
Henry said, at the conference, "What we’ve [Fenway Sports Group] found, is that contracts don’t seem to mean a lot in England – actually, in world football." Hopefully Yevhen Konoplyanka's agents, and all other agents who look set to do business with Liverpool, were paying close attention to these words. The implications of this bravado could very well give pause to players who consider Liverpool a future destination. It may even give Luis Suarez pause today, as well. It's a known fact players generally live a vagabond lifestyle, moving from one club to the next, sometimes within the same calendar year. What Henry's words suggest is they're not above reneging on contract language. Fair play to them, if they hold the opinion that players do the same. However, knowing it's part of the landscape, it's not exactly the smartest thing to say to the world.
Looking back, while it would have been nice to have Suarez banging in goals from all over the damn pitch, I'm very happy that Arsene Wenger spent that coin on Mesut Ozil instead. To start, the ensuing schadenfreude between Madrid and Tottenham following the Gareth Bale and Ozil transfers was worth its weight in gold.
But second, and lastly, while he's had his rough moments in transitioning from La Liga to the EPL, Ozil's shown his superior vision and passing ability and one can easily imagine greater times ahead as the club continues to search for pacey wingers and deadly strikers. The club's finally spent some money, and they will continue to spend some money. That changed, for the better.
What hasn't changed is John Henry is a liar, a phony and his haircut still makes him look like a woman going through menopause. He does possess an impressive large pair of testicles, though.