Liverpool have rejected a transfer request from Fernando Torres and told the Spain striker they expect him to honour his long-term contract.
Carlo coy on Torres talk
Speculation had been rife about Torres' future after the club turned down a £35 million bid from Chelsea on Thursday night.
Torres handed in his request just hours after the Reds concluded a deal with Ajax for their Uruguay forward Luiz Suarez. It was rejected and the player was reminded of his previous pledge to the club.
"Fernando Torres tonight submitted a written transfer request, which has been rejected by Liverpool,'' said a club statement late on Friday. "Fernando is under long-term contract and the club expect him to honour the commitment he made to Liverpool FC and its supporters when he signed the agreement.''
Barely had news of the Suarez deal, worth up to £22.8 million for the Dutch club, filtered out then speculation began to increase about Torres. It had been hoped the capture of the Uruguayan would provide the necessary evidence that owners Fenway Sports Group were serious about investing in the squad and convince star names like Torres and goalkeeper Jose Reina that they could have a successful future at Anfield.
However, it appears Torres' mind had already been made up to ask to leave in the wake of Chelsea's bid even though he has a contract until the end of 2013. The Stamford Bridge side have tried to sign Torres before and last summer it seemed they were preparing to make another offer when the player returned from South Africa as a World Cup winner.
Torres put an end to the speculation and spoke publicly of his feelings for the club on August 3, saying: "My commitment and loyalty to the club and to the fans is the same as it was on my first day when I signed. I am looking forward to the challenge ahead.''
It is those comments which the club have now turned back on the player, insisting they have no desire to allow him to leave. Their statement also eans heavily on the elevated position the 26-year-old has with the supporters, who have adored their No. 9 since the day he signed in July 2007.
The timing of Torres' request is odd, just three days before the close of the transfer window, and that could act in Liverpool's favour as they desperately try to hold on to a player who has been so influential for the vast majority of his three-and-a-half years at the club. Even if Chelsea return with an improved bid the Merseysiders will reject it and then can stall and frustrate any other attempts to manufacture a move, knowing there is very little time left for pressure to build.
Liverpool are not in action this weekend after being knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round and return to action on Wednesday at home to Stoke in the Premier League. Manager Kenny Dalglish is scheduled to hold his pre-match press conference on Monday - deadline day - but he is likely to have done plenty of talking behind the scenes before he faces the media after the weekend.
Dalglish is a man Torres has great respect and feeling for so if anyone can talk the Spaniard round it is the legendary Scot. But even if he is successful in buying enough time for the window to close it will be interesting to see what reaction Torres receives from the Kop who adore him at Anfield in midweek. The whole saga has overshadowed what should have been a day of positives for the Reds who, having confidently rebuffed Chelsea's approach, then clinched the deal they have been striving for throughout the whole of January.
Suarez, who has yet to pass a medical and agree personal terms, was meant to be the signing which made everything all right for Torres. The plan was for the 24-year-old - scorer of 111 goals in 159 matches for Ajax - to provide much-needed support up front, supplementing Torres and not replacing him.
It is a real statement of intent from FSG and should have been a key moment in the Americans' short three-month reign. However, keeping hold of Torres takes on even greater importance but even if they are successful whether the damage of him handing in a transfer request can ever be repaired remains to be seen.