LONDON - Controversial striker Luis Suarez was seemingly moving closer towards a move from Liverpool to Barcelona after reports in the British press on Thursday said that talks between the two clubs were ongoing.
Several media organisations said that discussions had started in London, with Britain's domestic Press Association news agency quoting a Liverpool source as saying: “The talks were productive, with sensible expectations on both sides. Further talks and discussions will take place in due course. Nothing is finalised as of now.”
Barcelona themselves stoked the speculation regarding a transfer by heaping more praise on Suarez on Wednesday after the Uruguay forward apologised for biting a rival World Cup player but refused to comment on rumours of a possible signing. Despite the furore over the incident, Barcelona were reportedly still ready to sign the player from Liverpool on condition he apologise for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Suarez's attack on Chiellini saw him thrown out of the World Cup and given a four-month global ban from all football. It was the third time he had been banned for biting yet he still remains one of world football's hottest properties after leading the Premier League scoring chart last season with 31 goals.
Liverpool, who finished runners-up in the Premier League last season behind champions Manchester City, have indicated that if the 27-year-old Suarez is to leave Anfield it will be for a fee of at least £70 million ($121 million, 88million euros). Meanwhile there have been suggestions that Barcelona could offer Chile forward Alexis Sanchez in return to help seal the deal.
Suarez's current ban means he could not play for Barcelona until October at the earliest. Nevertheless, following Suarez's Twitter apology to Chiellini, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu coyly said: “Luis Suarez is a Liverpool player so I can't speak about Suarez. I can talk about what he did. He made a mistake during a match and has apologised. That honours him because it is hard to admit mistakes,” he added.
"But once you do it, is the first step to change. He is a player who has to recover and keep playing." His comments mirrored those made by Barcelona's sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, who on Tuesday praised Suarez's "humility" for making the apology. "Suarez has had the character and the humility to acknowledge his mistake. That is important," Zubizarreta said.
Suarez bit Chiellini on June 24 in Uruguay's 1-0 win over Italy which took the South Americans into the World Cup last 16 before they were knocked out by Colombia 2-0 on Sunday. As well as his four-month ban from all football activities, Suarez was suspended from nine international matches and fined 100,000 Swiss francs ($112,000). Barcelona's new coach Luis Enrique is overhauling the squad after a disappointing season in which they narrowly failed to defend their Spanish league title.
Bartomeu vowed Barcelona would make "exciting" signings before the start of the next season. "We are working on names that are for me personally exciting and which have the agreement of Luis Enrique," he said.