Striker Luis Suarez asked for understanding from Liverpool fans after his £75 million (€95m) move to Barcelona was confirmed yesterday.
The Uruguay international brought the brilliant and bizarre to Anfield during his three-and-a-half-year stay, during which controversy was never far away.
Suarez scored 82 goals in 133 appearances and departs after arguably the best season of his career, with 31 goals in 33 league matches making him a Kop idol.
However, he has infuriated those same supporters with two lengthy suspensions — totalling 18 games for racially abusing Patrice Evra and biting Branislav Ivanovic — and tarnished his reputation further by trying to force a move away last summer.
Had he succeeded in pushing through a transfer to Arsenal he would have been despised at Anfield but this time around acceptance of his departure was more widespread.
“I hope you can all understand why I have made this decision,” Suarez said in a statement after the Reds announced they had agreed a club record deal with Barcelona.
“This club did all they could to get me to stay but playing and living in Spain, where my wife’s family live, is a lifelong dream and ambition. I believe now the timing is right.
“It is with a heavy heart that I leave Liverpool for a new life and new challenges in Spain.
“Both me and my family have fallen in love with this club and with the city but most of all I have fallen in love with the incredible fans.
“You have always supported me and we, as a family, will never forget it, we will always be Liverpool supporters.
“I am very proud I have played my part in helping to return Liverpool to the elite of the Premier League and in particular back into the Champions League.
“Thank you again for some great moments and memories. You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Suarez later posted a letter from him and his family on his official Twitter account, thanking the club for standing by him in “difficult times”.
He wrote: “Over the last few years I have experienced lots of good moments and other, more difficult ones. Both in good times and bad I always felt supported by wonderful fans at a wonderful club.
“We will always feel close to the city: we feel proud of the fact that our daughter, who is almost four years old now, was raised in Liverpool and that our son was born there.”
He added: “At difficult times, I had your backing and that is something that I will always carry in my heart.”
Suarez is currently serving a four-month ban on all football-related activity for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup but that does not extend to transfers.
The 27-year-old will have a medical in Catalonia next week before signing a five-year contract, although Barcelona have to address the issue of how to parade him in front of their fans as the Camp Nou — the usual venue for such occasions — is off limits to the Uruguay international as his suspension incorporates all grounds.
Manager Brendan Rodgers now has the job of filling the world-class void left by Suarez.
He had hoped to persuade Alexis Sanchez to move in the opposite direction as a makeweight, but the Chile striker signed for Arsenal on Thursday.
Rodgers remains positive they will cope without the brilliance of Suarez.
“Luis is a very special talent and I thank him for the role he has played in the team in the past two years, during my time at Liverpool,” he said.
“I think he would be the first to accept he has improved as a player over that period, along with the team, and has benefited from being here as we have benefited from him.
“The club have done all they can over a sustained period of time to try to keep Luis at Liverpool.
“It is with great reluctance and following lengthy discussions we have eventually agreed to his wishes to move to Spain for new experiences and challenges.
“We wish him and his young family well; we will always consider them to be friends.
“We are focused on the future, as we strive to continue with the progress we have made and build on last season’s excellent Barclays Premier League campaign.
“I am confident we will improve the team further and will be stronger for this coming season, when we will be competing on all fronts; domestically and in the greatest club competition in the world, the Champions League.
“If there is one thing the history of this great club teaches us, it is that Liverpool FC is bigger than any individual.”
Steven Gerrard, who rates Suarez as the best individual he has played alongside, paid tribute to Suarez on Instagram alongside a picture of the pair celebrating together.
“On an emotional day for me would just like to say what a pleasure it has been playing with an amazing talent such as Luis,” he wrote.
“I would like to thank him for his outstanding contribution on the pitch during his time @liverpoolfc and to wish him and his family all the best on his new adventure in Spain. #lfclegend."
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