Striker Luis Suarez has ensured there will be no January repeat of the transfer wrangling that dogged him in the close season by signing a new long-term contract with Liverpool, the Premier League club said on Friday.
Suarez, who has scored 17 goals in a blistering start to the campaign, thanked fans and cited their support since he returned to action following a 10-game ban for biting as a key factor in his decision. "I am delighted to have agreed a new deal with Liverpool and have my future secured for the long term," the Uruguayan, who was named captain for the 5-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, said on the club website (www.liverpoolfc.com). "Without doubt the backing I have received from the Liverpool fans has influenced my decision. I am so proud to represent them and go out to do my best for them every time I pull on the shirt.
"We have a special relationship; they have love for me and in return I love them back. I will always do my best for them and hopefully we can achieve success together." The BBC reported the deal to be 4-1/2 years and worth 200,000 pounds ($327,000) per week to Suarez over the final four years of the contract and 160,000 pounds per week until the end of this season.
The 26-year-old was linked with a move away from the club this year and Premier League rivals Arsenal tested Liverpool's resolve with a bid in excess of 40 million pounds. Spanish giants Real Madrid were also said to be circling and, according to British media reports at the time, were Suarez's first choice if he left Liverpool.
Liverpool's decision to dig their heels in and prevent Suarez leaving has reaped rich rewards, with the Uruguayan topping the scoring charts and helping propel the Merseysiders to second in the table. His ability to conjure moments of individual brilliance and single-handedly pick apart the opposition have made him an indispensable presence in Brendan Rodgers's Liverpool team.
"Luis is a world-class talent and securing his services is crucial for what we are trying to achieve here," Rodgers said. "What's most important and most exciting is that, at just 26 years old, his best years are still ahead of him and we now know we'll be seeing him reach that potential in a Liverpool shirt."
Suarez's recent displays have had fans drooling in admiration. Four goals against Norwich City and two against both West Ham United and Tottenham in Liverpool's last three games mean he has the best strike rate of any player across Europe's major leagues. His performances are all the more notable given the way he finished the last campaign, having been banned for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April. The club's principal owner John Henry said it was a sign of the direction the club were heading in.
"We are committed to working hard to keep our best players and this is an indication that we are moving in the right direction and moving at a pace that impresses one of the best players in world football," he said.
(Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ed Osmond)