Luis Suarez can expect to retain the support of Liverpool fans even though the striker is agitating for a transfer from the Premier League soccer club, Managing Director Ian Ayre said.
The 26-year-old Uruguayan, who scored 30 goals last season, has been linked with Real Madrid, Chelsea and Arsenal after he said he’d like to leave the 18-time English champion during interviews at last month’s Confederations Cup. Ayre said that Liverpool rejected an offer from Arsenal for Suarez.
“He only needs to do what he did last season and everyone will feel he’s in the right place and he should carry on getting the support that he deserves and gets from Liverpool,” Ayre said in a telephone interview. “We’d love to see Luis put on a Liverpool shirt for this season and beyond and we hope that once he gets back things will settle down.”
Suarez, who joined from Ajax for 26.5 million euros ($34.6 million) in January 2011, will miss the first six games of the season wherever he plays because of a 10-match ban for biting an opponent. He was suspended for eight games a year earlier for racially abusing an opponent.
Even with Suarez’s goals, Liverpool finished seventh in the Premier League in May, failing to qualify for European competition. Suarez has said he wants to move to a club entered in the Champions League, which Liverpool hasn’t played in since 2009. He also cited critical treatment from the U.K. media as a reason to quit the country before saying most recently he was “flattered” by interest from London-based Arsenal.
“This is an ambitious young player, he’s talked in the media about wanting to play in the Champions League and all these things,” Ayre said. “It’s our job to convince Luis that this is the right place to achieve those things.”
Ayre wouldn’t detail the club’s targets for next season, though pointed to its off-season recruitment drive as proof the Reds, owned since 2010 by the U.S.-based Fenway Sports Group, will try to secure a top-four finish to reach the Champions League. At 9 million pounds ($13.5 million), goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is the most expensive acquisition and he’s been joined by Spanish attackers Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto as well as defender Kolo Toure. The club failed in its most ambitious bid when Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan chose Champions League runner-up Borussia Dortmund.
“We’ve got other people in our sights and we’ll keep plugging away,” Ayre said. “But we’ll do some more business, there’s no doubt about that.”
Liverpool left yesterday for a tour of Asia, a region where the team, which last won the English championship in 1990, remains popular. A match at the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia was sold out in hours. That popularity, said Ayre, has helped recruit talent even though the team hasn’t been competing for top honors of late.
“We’ve brought in great players who recognize we’re not in the Champions League but see the size of this club, see the size of the opportunity and what we’re trying to build and want to be part of it,” he said.
Liverpool has revamped its operations in the last 12 months, hiring Dave Fallows as head of recruitment and scouting and Barry Hunter as chief scout from Premier League rival Manchester City as well as a number of others based overseas.
The structure will allow the club to replace Suarez or other players quickly should they depart, Ayre said. The changes came after the team spent 35 million pounds in 2011 on Newcastle’s Andy Carroll, a striker who last month moved to West Ham for as little as 15 million pounds.
“In every position on the pitch we have a fairly good idea of who are the best players available at what price in the event one of our players leaves,” Ayre said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re painting a negative scenario, it just means you’re planning well, which is what people expect.”