The Liverpool chief executive, Ian Ayre, will meet a Barcelona delegation in London today for the first talks over the sale of Luis Suarez, with the acquisition of Alexis Sanchez a key part of the Premier League club’s demands.
The biggest transfer saga of this summer’s World Cup finals is by no means over yet, but there appears to be a consensus on both sides that Suarez will be a Barcelona player by the end of the transfer window.
It is understood that today’s meeting is the first official talks between the clubs on the Suarez- Sanchez deal.
Liverpool have set an £80million (Dh504m) valuation on their banned striker, who is not eligible to play club football until November, and is still at his home in Uruguay.
They have had one bid for Sanchez rejected by Barcelona already this summer, and see the Chilean forward, valued by his current club at around £30m (Dh189m), as a crucial part of their new-look side for the Champions League next season.
Liverpool have completed the acquisition of Adam Lallana from Southampton and retain an interest in Emre Can, the midfielder from Bayer Leverkusen.
The Sanchez-Suarez deal is the key, however, and much will depend on how talks progress today. Suarez is still likely to go ahead with an appeal against his four-month “football activity” ban from FIFA. He is hopeful that the governing body will at least allow him to train during that period of time.
Barcelona made little secret of their intentions when their sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta described Suarez as “humble” for having apologised to Giorgio Chiellini on Monday for biting the Italian.
Zubizarreta was speaking at a press conference to introduce the club’s new Croatian midfield signing Ivan Rakitic. Asked about the club’s potential interest in Suarez, Zubizarreta said: “Suarez has shown he is humble enough to admit an error, which is very important.
“He has been humble enough to apologise to those he has affected, because it happened in the middle of a festival of football. In this case it’s the best thing a person can do.
“Everyone knows that Luis is an excellent player, everyone knows last season he played in various positions in attack, but everyone also knows that he is a Liverpool player.” Rakitic, signed for £14m (Dh88.2m) from Seville said: “The fact he [Suarez] has had the character and the strength to go in front of everyone and say sorry says a lot about him as a person.
“Not every person has that strength to admit they have done something stupid.
“I rarely say that I am wrong so this says a lot about him, he has shown the character and strength he has so he should be commended for that.
“Regardless of whether the club signs him or not, his quality is unquestionable.
“He has shown a lot of quality with Uruguay and scored more than 30 goals [last season] with Liverpool, so he has the necessary quality to play for Barca.”
Zubizarreta also addressed the future of Barca stalwart Xavi who has been heavily linked with a big money swansong in Qatar.
He said: “Nobody is indispensable, but Xavi is an icon. He’s not just any player, he’s our number six and we need to have an open conversation with him. If he goes we’ll try to do it in the best way possible.”