Money, not molars, will determine Suarez's future: The striker's latest biting scandal is barely relevant to Barcelona's businesslike pursuit, says Andy Hunter

Guardian (UK) |

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It is tempting, and a much better tale, to suspect Liverpool are falling foul of an elaborate plot designed to prise Luis Suarez from their grasp and into the forgiving embrace of Barcelona. The fiendish plan is enacted with the bite mark on Giorgio Chiellini's left shoulder in the conspiracy world when, in reality, Suarez's latest shameful act has little influence on where he performs next season. Cash, not canines, will determine that. The process that brought Liverpool and Barcelona to a meeting table in London yesterday commenced not with "Bite 3 - it will never happen again" in Natal last Tuesday but Suarez's thwarted attempt to leave Anfield 12 months ago. Suarez was serving a ban at the time, for biting, but had to get out of England because of unfair vilification by the English media. All very familiar, although the argument was somewhat undermined by a public appeal to be allowed to join Arsenal. It was one example of Suarez taking people for a ride. The World Cup delivered another. Last summer proved a mess for Suarez, his agent Pere Guardiola and ultimately Liverpool. The player's camp believed they had an agreement to leave for a set price and, in the absence of Champions League football, the Liverpool hierarchy stood firm, principal owner John W Henry laughed off Arsenal's pounds 40,000,001 bid and Suarez had to train away from the first team having accused manager Brendan Rodgers of breaking promises. No one cared for a repeat and an agreement was reached on a lucrative new contract. The headlines centred on Suarez's pounds 200,000-a-week salary and commitment to Liverpool until 2018 when his past indiscretions and longing for the exit were forgotten as he put pen to paper in December. Both parties, however, now had clarity regarding a future possible transfer thanks to a release clause. Suarez's suitor has to meet Liverpool's valuation to land the striker, and Real Madrid's willingness to pay pounds 85m for Gareth Bale last summer was instructive. Liverpool have not suddenly decided to wash their hands of Suarez following the Chiellini incident and the subsequent four-month ban from all football-related activities. It would be surprising if key figures at Anfield have not grown tired of the appalling behaviour of the club's prized asset but Barcelona's request for a meeting was not accepted at gunpoint. It is simply business. Not a reaction to a bite. Suarez's ban presented Barcelona with opportunity to secure a player who has long dreamed of a move to Spain. They have moved swiftly, encouraging the apology and U-turn that Suarez issued for biting Chiellini then commending his strength of character for doing so 24 hours later. But unless Raul Sanllehi, Barcelona's director of football management, makes an offer acceptable to FSG, they do not walk away with their prize. Barcelona are said to value the Liverpool striker in the pounds 60m region but the damaged-goods argument does not work. The theory that a club cannot keep a disillusioned player does not hold with Suarez either. His reaction to being denied a transfer last summer - 31 Premier League goals and a clean sweep of Player of the Year awards - would support Ian Ayre's case should the need arise in the chief executive's meeting with Sanllehi. Liverpool accepted Barcelona's request for talks not only to hear their offer for Suarez but to register interest in Alexis Sanchez. Barcelona are willing to offer the winger as a makeweight but whether the Chile international can be lured remains to be seen. He will not be short of options following an outstanding World Cup campaign. pounds 50m and Sanchez? That would soften the blow at Anfield should Suarez become Barcelona's brilliant problem. In the meantime, Steven Gerrard's advice to Suarez when he was flirting with Arsenal last August is beginning to sound prophetic. "Move on if you want, further down the line, but a player of his calibre should wait for the big one to come to him," was Gerrard's message. "He deserves to play for one of the best teams in the world, a Barcelona or a Real Madrid. They will come calling for him again." Captions: Luis Suarez's turbulent time at Liverpool has mixed highs with causes for despair but he may be about to start a new chapter at Barcelona AFP/Getty Images Alexis Sanchez could form part of Liverpool's Suarez deal, although the Chile forward will be in demand after a fine World Cup

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