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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.

Sydney FC return to winning ways in A-League

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24:  Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic of Sydney FC makes a save as Bruno Fornaroli of City competes for the ball during the round 21 A-League match between Melbourne City and Sydney FC at AAMI Park on February 24, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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SYDNEY (AP) Bobo scored twice as Sydney FC rebounded from its first loss in the A-League to beat Melbourne City 3-1 and continue atop the table.

[ MORE: Schmeichel speaks about Ranieri sacking, state of Leicester ]

Sydney’s ambitious attempt to become the first team to end the regular season unbeaten came unstuck last week when it was beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers in a fractious local derby, repercussions of which continued through the week. Wanderers were fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia after its fans unfurled an obscene banner targeting Sydney coach Graham Arnold.

[ MORE: Chelsea, Everton extend unbeaten run in Saturday’s PL play ]

Sydney raised itself above that controversy on Friday with a comprehensive win over Melbourne City which briefly took it 11 points clear in first place.

Melbourne Victory restored the gap to eight points when it beat defending champion Adelaide United 2-1, and Perth leapfrogged Melbourne City into third place when it dumped the Wanderers 2-0.

Bobo opened Sydney’s scoring with a penalty, but City canceled that out only a minute later.

Sydney went in front again after the break, and Bobo sealed the win, set up by a superb through ball by Milos Ninkovic which highlighted their developing combination.

Midfielder Brandon O’Neil said Sydney was determined to leave behind the contention of their derby loss.

“When it all came out, the FFA and Western Sydney had to deal with it and it did,” O’Neil said. “It brought us together and we spoke about a few things, and nothing changed for us. We want to be premier (champions).”

Melbourne Victory’s win over Adelaide kept it in touch with Sydney with seven regular season rounds remaining.

Wellington kept its faint playoff hopes alive, staying in seventh place with a 2-1 win over Brisbane.

Whitecaps acquire U.S. defender Brek Shea in deal with Orlando City

Toronto FC v Orlando City SC
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With almost a week to go until the Major League Soccer season kicks off, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Orlando City may have pulled off one of the biggest trades of offseason.

[ MORE: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018 ]

The clubs announced on Saturday that the Whitecaps have acquired U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder/defender Brek Shea in exchange for forward Giles Barnes, who is headed to Orlando City.

“We are excited to welcome Brek to our club and city,” said Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. “Brek is a tall, physical, skilled player and will bring a different dimension to our attack. Brek will join the group in coming days and we anticipate he will be available for selection as early as this Thursday’s Champions League match against New York.”

Shea, 26, began his career in MLS with FC Dallas before heading to England for a brief stint with Stoke City. The U.S. defender made his way back to MLS ahead of Orlando City’s inaugural season in 2015 and started 39 matches in that span.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Meanwhile, Barnes has scored 33 goals since joining MLS in 2012. The 28-year-old forward played with the Houston Dynamo before spending last season with the Whitecaps.

Report: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Bayer Leverkusen & Mexico
AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Major League Soccer has attracted some of the world’s biggest stars over recent years and now one of the Mexican national team’s top talents could be heading stateside very soon.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to ESPN FC, MLS is currently in negotiations with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in an attempt to lure Mexican striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to the U.S. in the summer of 2018.

Expansion side Los Angeles FC has been heavily linked with Hernandez, with the club making its entrance into MLS in 2018. Additionally, the Los Angeles Galaxy have also been said to have strong ties with Chicharito.

Hernandez, 28, is currently under contract until next summer, and MLS is reportedly seeking a move in 2018 to avoid paying a transfer fee for the El Tri forward.

ESPN FC is also reporting that Chicharito could make around $9 million annually if he does in fact join MLS.

In 2015, Orlando City and the Chicago Fire were both linked with acquiring Hernandez but the Leverkusen forward was insistent upon the fact that he play Champions League football.

PL Sunday: Spurs look to regain second against Stoke

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Although there’s only one match on Sunday’s Premier League docket, the fixture bears great weight for both clubs.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Tottenham vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs have the chance to move back into second place at White Hart Lane as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side are firmly in a battle to finish runners’ up to Chelsea this season. Tottenham currently sit 13 points out of the top spot, however, five clubs are within four points of another in the battle for second. Danny Rose and Erik Lamela remain sidelined due to injuries but Spurs will remain the favorites in the fixture after having won their previous two league meetings.

Stoke enters Sunday having gone unbeaten in five of its last six PL matches and the Potters can enter the top 10 with a victory. Mark Hughes‘ side could be given a big lift with the potential return of Xherdan Shaqiri while Saido Berahino could be in line to earn his first start since joining Stoke. Both players could present massive upside for the Potters, who have struggled to find goals as of late. In their last four matches, Stoke have managed just three finishes, one of which came from an own goal.