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Liverpool owner admits Luis Suarez had £40m buy-out clause

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Liverpool owner John Henry has reportedly admitted that Luis Suarez had a 40 million pound ($67 million) release clause in his last contract and despite Arsenal’s £40 million plus £1 offer last summer, the club simply refused to sell the striker.

“Luis Suarez is the top scorer in the English Premier League which is arguably the top soccer league in the world,” Henry noted while speaking as a panel member at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last weekend.

“And he had a buy-out clause – I don’t know what degree I should go into this – but he had a buy-out clause of £40m. So Arsenal, one of our prime rivals this year, they offered £40m and one pound for him and triggered his buy-out clause.”

The story concerning Suarez’ possible transfer was one of the biggest transfer topics of last summer. The Uruguayan striker, who was in the midst of his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, was unsettled at Anfield. He wanted to play in the Champions League and when he heard of Arsenal’s interest in him, considered putting in a formal transfer request or even taking legal action.

His basis for a potential legal action was the presence of the buy-out clause, a contractual provision that typically allows a player to leave a club if the stated value is triggered by an offer. Given Arsenal’s now famous £40m + £1 offer, it would seem Suarez had the grounds to bring such a suit.

So how did Henry get around the problem? Staunch refusal, for one thing.

“What we’ve found over the years is that contracts don’t seem to mean a lot in England – actually not in England, in world football. It doesn’t matter how long a player’s contract is, he can decide he’s leaving.

“We sold Fernando Torres for £50m. We didn’t want to sell but we were forced to. For the first time (with Suarez) we took the position that we weren’t selling.

“Since apparently these contracts don’t seem to hold, we took the position we’re just not selling and it’s been great for Luis, it’s been great for us, and what will happen at the end of year, I think we’re going to make Champions League and we have a small chance of winning the Premier League this year.”

Sitting in 2nd place four points adrift of leaders Chelsea and with a favorable schedule remaining, few will deny Liverpool’s title chances. But what about the legal implications of what Liverpool has done with regards to this buy-out clause?

Did John Henry pull off something illegal? Did/does Arsenal have a legal claim to Luis Suarez? Will this situation render buy-out clauses unenforceable in world soccer?

No, no and no. The real key in this case, as in all buy-out clause situations, is the structure of the language in the clause. And in Suarez’ case, the language was incredibly broad. The contract did not say – ‘if a bid of £40m is received, Liverpool must sell.’ As explained by Professional Footballers’ Association boss Gordon Taylor last August, it said – “if there is no qualification for the Champions League and if there is a minimum offer of £40m, then the parties will get around the table to discuss things.”

In other words, by including this good faith language requiring the parties to discuss the possibility of a transfer, that hugely softened Suarez ‘buy-out’ clause to the point where, well, it wasn’t really a buy-out clause at all.

Liverpool abided by the terms of the agreement, met with Suarez, discussed with him that they didn’t want to let him go – or, as many speculate, that he would stick it out one more season and could leave if the club didn’t qualify for Champions League – and that was it.

Terms of the contract were met. No legal claim for Suarez or Arsenal. Really, really good lawyering on the part of Liverpool.

Europa League: Manchester United thumps Fenerbahce, Zenit avoids upset

Manchester United's Paul Pogba, left, celebrates scoring his sides third goal with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, during the Europa League Group A soccer match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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Goals, goals, goals and several red cards dotted the landscape of Europa League football on Thursday.

Premier League teams saw mixed results despite controlling performances, while the day avoided a single 0-0 result.

Manchester United 4-1 Fenerbahce

United moved atop Group A, level on points with Feyenoord, after a fairly comprehensive home win.

Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils got a pair of deserved penalty kicks in the first 34 minutes, as Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial converted chances to make it 2-0.

Pogba scored a really nice goal from distance off a Jesse Lingard feed before halftime to put it out of reach, and then Lingard struck just after the break to make it entirely academic at Old Trafford.

Robin Van Persie did score upon this return to Manchester, and the fans gave his announced goal a warm cheer.

Inter Milan 1-0 SouthamptonRECAP

Saints were the better team on the day, but Antonio Candreva scored the lone goal as the hosts gave Southampton its first setback of this Europa League season in front of 7,000-plus traveling fans.

Dundalk 1-2 Zenit Saint Petersburg

The Lilywhites looked ready to leap atop the Group D table for a while, an achievement that would feel a bit like Leicester on PEDs.

The opening goal came from Robbie Benson in the 52nd minute, but Robert Mak equalized for Zenit in the 71st before Giuliano put the Russians ahead six minutes later.

The Irish semi-pro side is now 1-1-1 in group play and remains the first club from the republic to score a goal in a group stage or higher European when they drew at AZ Alkmaar.

Dundalk then became the first Irish side to win a European group stage match when it toppled Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-0 at the Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Take this moment to salute their performances, even with a loss on Thursday.

Celta Vigo 2-2 Ajax
Standard Liege 2-2 Panathinaikos
Konyaspor 1-1 Sporting Braga
Shakhtar Donetsk 5-0 KAA Gent
RB Salzburg 0-1 Nice
Krasnodar 0-1 Schalke
Steaua Bucuresti 1-1 Zurich
Osmanlispor 2-2 Villarreal
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 0-1 Sparta Prague
Slovan Liberec 1-3 Fiorentina
Qarabag 2-0 PAOK Salonika

Feyenoord 1-0 Zorya Luhansk
Young Boys 3-1 Apoel Nicosia
Olympiakos 4-1 Astana
Mainz 1-1 Anderlecht
Saint-Etienne 1-0 Qabala
AZ Alkmaar 1-2 Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Roma 3-3 Austria Wien
Viktoria Plzen 1-2 Astra Giurgiu
Genk 2-0 Athletic Bilbao
Rapid Wien 1-1 Sassuolo


Premier League and NBC Sports Group hosted at U.S. Embassy event in London

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The Premier League and NBC Sports Group were recognized today at a U.S. Embassy event in London.

The event, held at Winfield House, the residence of Ambassador Matthew Barzun, celebrated the growth of the Premier League in the United States, highlighted by NBC Sports Group’s innovative coverage and promotion of the league.

Attendees included Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, and NBC Sports Group’s U.K.-based Premier League announce team of Arlo White, Lee Dixon and Graeme LeSaux.

Ambassador Barzun introduced Scudamore and Jon Miller (President of Programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN) at the top of the program.

“We are honoured to represent NBC Sports inside the hallowed halls of Winfield House,” said White, who moderated a Q&A at the event. “We thoroughly enjoy bringing the excitement of the Premier League to fans in the United States, and are thrilled that we are playing a prominent role in growing the game stateside.”

As the exclusive U.S. home of the Premier League since August 2013, NBC Sports Group’s presentation of the Premier League has reached nearly 30 million American viewers in each of its three full seasons as the league’s exclusive U.S. home – more than double the U.S. audience in any year prior.

WATCH: Pogba puts Europa League match to bed for Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  Anthony Martial #11 of Manchester United is cogratulated by teammate Paul Pogba after scoring his team's second goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Manchester United’s first two goals of Thursday’s easy win over Fenerbahce came off penalty kicks, but the third was far more pleasing to the eye.

Paul Pogba nabbed his second of the night by tearing into a Jesse Lingard lay-off from 20 yards away, ensuring that halftime might as well have been full-time.

[ MORE: Saints fall in Milan ]

Anthony Martial joined Pogba in converting a penalty, while Lingard made it 4-0 just after halftime.

More than 7,000 Saints fans see Southampton fall in Milan (video)

MILAN, ITALY - OCTOBER 20:  (R) Antonio Candreva of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goalduring the UEFA Europa League match between FC Internazionale Milano and Southampton FC at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Milan, .  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
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Antonio Candreva’s 67th minute goal gave Inter Milan a lead against the run of play, and dominant Southampton failed to take advantage of an Inter red card in a 1-0 loss at the San Siro on Thursday. (video)

The setback was Southampton’s first in Europa League play this season, and costs them the top spot in Group K at the group stage’s midpoint.

[ MORE: Atleti accepts January transfer ban ]

Saints had the edge in shots and attempts on target, but couldn’t get the better of their historic Italian opponents.

Sparta Prague beat Hapoel Be’er Sheva 1-0 to move ahead of Saints on six points. Southampton has four, as does Hapoel. Inter sits fourth with three points.

The winner was a classy goal, by the way, for the 43-times capped Italian winger:

Our own Joe Prince-Wright was on the scene as Saints were very well-represented in Italy.