Arsenal have had a formal bid of about 30 million pounds for Liverpool striker Luis Suarez rejected. In one of the most audacious moves of the summer so far, Arsenal -representatives made a direct approach to the Mersey-side club for Suarez last week and were immediately rebuffed.
Liverpool insist that the Uruguayan is not for sale, and the Arsenal valuation - believed to be less than the 35 million pounds the Merseyside club paid for Andy Carroll 21/2 years ago - has taken many by surprise. Liverpool have been braced for such approaches since the end of last season, although it was expected that Real Madrid would lead the chase particularly given the player's claims he is unhappy with English football.
Arsenal felt suitably encouraged to contact Anfield officials to register their desire to buy the 26-year-old. It has now emerged that it went beyond an inquiry, and although neither club is prepared to comment on the discussions or clarify the precise amount offered, it is clear that it was unacceptable to Liverpool. There is a sense of opportunism and extreme optimism about the Arsenal move given the primary reason Suarez has offered for leaving Anfield is to escape the English media.
Although there is inevitable upset on Merseyside that he began to talk openly about feeling disillusioned in the Premier League as soon as he joined his international squad this summer, his sentiments were not surprising. Liverpool knew how upset the player was and how he felt mistreated by the Football Association when he was banned for 10 games for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic last season.
Although Liverpool are still determined to resist his sale, when the dust settled most supporters could sympathise with his wish for Champions League football, especially if he moved to the Bernabeu. A transfer to another English club would be unpalatable, however, and contradict every statement the player has made to justify a possible departure. It should be stated that Liverpool have been given no indication by Suarez or his representatives that he is interested in joining Arsenal or any other English club.
Even before his most recent controversy, the Merseysiders recognised Real Madrid and Barcelona as the only clubs with the potential to prompt Suarez to ask for a transfer. That is something he will have to do if he is to leave, although Liverpool could still reject a formal transfer request. It remains to be seen if Arsenal plan to improve their offer. If they increase a bid to 40 million pounds, Suarez could seek permission to speak to Arsene Wenger.
The conspiracy -theory might suggest Arsenal made their move to nudge Real Madrid, who have been focusing on Suarez, into completing negotiations with the London club for Gonzalo Higuain. It may be no coincidence that in the days since Arsenal's bid for Suarez, Higuain's move to London has edged closer. Their bid also explains why there was a flurry of bets on Suarez joining Arsenal last week, prompting some bookmakers to suspend the betting.
Chelsea are also believed to be pondering a move for Suarez. That is even more distressing to the Merseyside club than the notion of him heading to the Emirates Stadium. After taking another Liverpool icon, -Fernando Torres, from Anfield the idea of Jose Mourinho doing the same with the more dynamic Suarez revives painful memories.
Suarez is on extended leave and is not due to return to Merseyside until the end of the month.