Barcelona close in on Luis Suarez

Luis Suárez is close to sealing his preferred move to Barcelona after the Catalan club held a “productive” first meeting with Liverpool and offered around £70m for the controversial forward.

Barcelona’s determination to clinch a deal for the Uruguayan was confirmed during talks between their director of football management, Raul Sanllehi, and Liverpool’s chief executive, Ian Ayre, in London on Wednesday. Rather than seek a drastically reduced fee for a player banned for four months for biting the Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, Sanllehi’s opening bid was in the region of £70m.

The fee falls short of Liverpool’s initial £80m valuation, and has not been accepted, but both sides appear convinced a deal can be done after their face-to-face negotiations over the 27-year-old. Barcelona are believed to be willing to pay a straight cash sum for Suárez or to include Alexis Sánchez as a makeweight, as Liverpool had requested.

However, the Chile international has given no indication he wants to move to Anfield and Suárez’s transfer is unlikely to be concluded until the winger has decided whether to join Liverpool, another European club or to stay at Camp Nou.

Suárez is banned following the bite on Chiellini, subject to an appeal from the Uruguay football association, but a transfer is allowed in that period.

Liverpool will now await an answer from Sánchez, and hold further dialogue with Sanllehi, before finalising the terms of Suárez’s long-held desire to move to a Spanish club. His wife’s family are based in Barcelona and that has influenced his preference to join a rebuilding job under Luís Enrique rather than a move to the European champions, Real Madrid.

Suárez signed a contract extension until 2018 worth £200,000 a week with Liverpool in December, albeit with a release clause designed to eradicate the problems that erupted over his thwarted attempt to sign for Arsenal 12 months ago. The latest controversy surrounding the striker and his ban, one that would suspend the striker from the first 13 matches of Liverpool’s season, has not reduced the Anfield club’s price tag on the striker and Barcelona accepted that stance during the meeting with Ayre.