Luis Suarez 2

The progress is evident at Liverpool. If Brendan Rodgers guides the club into the top four in the Premier League, it would count as a considerable step forward, but yet still quite a distance from the final goal.

Liverpool’s form this season will likely extend Luis Suarez’s stay at the club beyond January, but you still get the sense that the Uruguayan isn’t in it for the long haul and that he’ll depart in the summer.

That doesn’t take away from Liverpool’s objective, however. You could tell by their activity in the summer that they weren’t going to be distracted by Suarez’s public desire to leave Anfield. Where Wayne Rooney’s uncertain future played a part in the poor transfer business at Manchester United, Liverpool regardless went ahead and upgraded the goalkeeping department, the defence and added a small handful of attackers to supplement what they already had. The fact the Suarez decided – or was convinced – to stay has only counted as a bonus.

Champions League football will set Liverpool up nicely for next season – yet even with UEFA’s premier club competition, I still believe Suarez will be persuaded to go elsewhere, possibly Real Madrid. European football simply isn’t enough to retain the world’s best players when major silverware looks to be out of reach, as evidenced by the departures at Arsenal in recent years.

What Liverpool will get is a boost of funding, both in the income from the Champions League but also in the sale of Suarez. But even if they finish outside of the top four, there’s little reason why they shouldn’t demand a sizable fee for the striker in the summer, especially if dealing with Real Madrid.

The project, as these things are so often called, isn’t over at Liverpool. How many disruptions will there be if the club fail to land Champions League football for next season? Only Suarez is to be considered a real commodity that other clubs will look to pursue. Names like Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge are obviously vital to this Liverpool side, but they don’t hold the same value as the Uruguayan, therefore limiting the chance of major squad disruptions.

It also helps that Liverpool are looking towards younger players. Coutinho and Sturridge are well off their peak years and therefore know they have time on their side to win trophies. Luis Alberto, Mamadou Sakho and Simon Mignolet are the same. Importantly, there appears to be a very settled atmosphere at Anfield, where even Suarez has kept quiet since his return from a 10-match ban. That is largely owed to the work put in by Rodgers.

There is an inevitability about Suarez’s departure. He’s from Latin America where clubs like Real Madrid hold far more weight than Manchester United or Liverpool do. But Liverpool look to be prepared for what may come in the summer. In fact, had a foreign club come in this past summer with an “acceptable” offer, it would have been likely he’d be playing somewhere else by now.

But Suarez is a Liverpool player at this time and he’s doing a lot to place them in the top four come May. Being knocked out of the League Cup and not competing in Europe at all this season may have been viewed as a step backwards, but it counts towards the club taking a far greater step forward into the Champions League next season. And like Napoli for example have done with the sale of Edinson Cavani, Liverpool will also be given the opportunity to significantly upgrade the squad as a whole.

Even with Suarez’s sale, it’s unlikely Liverpool will be knocked too far off course.

Are Liverpool headed in the right direction?

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