Luis Suarez’s potential move to Barcelona is very much back on, thanks to the Liverpool player’s ‘apology’ for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.
Speaking at the presentation of Barca’s new €20m midfielder Ivan Rakitic yesterday, Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta carefully laid out his current position on signing Suarez.
“I am not analysing the Luis Suarez issue from the Barca point of view, but having the character and humility to recognise an error is important,” Zubizarreta said.
“He has apologised and from there the recovery process can start for any person. From there, he is a Liverpool player and that is the reality.”
The ‘error’ in question was Suarez sinking his teeth into Chiellini during the World Cup clash in Natal last week. Fifa quickly imposed a four-month ban from all football activity, while pundits [almost] worldwide ferociously condemned the action, with anger turning to widespread derision when the 27-year-old claimed in his defence that his face had just “accidentally” happened to collide with the Italian’s shoulder.
The incident — and the outrage it caused — was particularly unfortunately timed for Barca.
An €80 million deal had been in the works for some time. Ten days ago Suarez’s agent Pere Guardiola, a brother of ex-Camp Nou boss Pep, organised for his client’s father-in-law, and former Ajax team-mate Gabri Garcia, to both talk up the move in the Spanish media.
The ‘bite’ then quietened the transfer speculation — with Barca reportedly weighing up the pros and cons of continuing with the deal.
By the weekend there were well-placed local media stories that Barcelona’s directors now wanted a “gesture” from Suarez, to demonstrate he realised he had done wrong, and to improve the PR aspect of the deal.
Monday’s apology — especially the promise never to bite an opponent again — looks like the player’s camp meeting that requirement.
On Tuesday morning Catalan dailies Mundo Deportivo and Sport both had a repentant looking Suarez on their covers, while the former’s assistant director Miguel Rico reported that the deal was back on.
“The unfortunate incident in Brazil has set back the playing-out of the negotiations,” Rico wrote.
“The apology has set them going again, and sooner rather than later Liverpool and Barcelona, together, will announce the transfer of the player.
“This was the gesture which Bartomeu and Zubizarreta had been asking for to settle this matter.”
A further potential problem with the big money deal was financial. Last summer Barca spent about €100m on Neymar. Before the World Cup it agreed to up Messi’s salary to €20m [net] until 2019. The club is also around €300m in debt, while a €600m rebuild of the Camp Nou was approved last March.
But local press stories have suggested that the ‘bite’ could even help the deal to happen — as Liverpool can now be persuaded to drop their asking price.
Bartomeu is to outline the club’s transfer latest at a press conference this afternoon at the Camp Nou. Barca’s long planned ‘Operation Suarez’ — despite the slight hitch — looks set conclude successfully within days.
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