Luis Suarez issued what appears to be an apology for his bite on Italian defender Giogio Chiellini yesterday, but the statement has been interpreted by Liverpool as an attempt to pave the way for a move to Barcelona, and another summer of discord involving the Uruguayan striker appears to be brewing.
In a statement released on Monday, Saurez said he "had the opportunity to regain my calm and reflect on the reality of what occurred".
He went on: "Independent from the fallout and the contradicting declarations that have surfaced during these past days... the truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me.
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"For this: I deeply regret what occurred. I apologise to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family I vow to the public that there will never again be another incident like this."
Although the apology is welcome, most observers believe there is an ulterior motive in play.
Firstly it could be an attempt to get his punishment reduced. "Uruguay are appealing against the ban, and Suarez will hope that by acknowledging his misdemeanour, albeit belatedly, he will earn some clemency from Fifa," says The Times.
But that is the least significant aspect of the announcement. Almost all observers agree that the apology is also aimed at Barcelona, rumoured to be keen on signing the player.
His words can be "regarded a move to clear the way for his transfer to Barcelona", says The Independent. It notes that Suarez's sudden contrition is "at odds with the official line of the Uruguay football association... [which] has stopped well short of making an apology".
Tellingly, adds the paper, "Liverpool had no involvement in the apology, and no prior warning it was coming".
The statement makes no reference to Liverpool, the club which has "always stood resolutely behind him [and] will bear the brunt of his four-month ban", points out the Daily Mirror. "This is... seen inside Anfield as a sign that Suarez was thinking of a different constituency when he made his apology."
But there is little chance that any proposed move to Spain will go through easily, says Chris Bascombe in the Daily Telegraph. Suarez signed a new contract last summer, and Liverpool have a clear idea of his worth. But his Spanish suitors will not want to pay the full amount on account of his ban.
"The interests of Liverpool, Suarez and a La Liga superpower determined to show how much bigger their appendage is, appear too conflicted for the next few weeks to pass cordially," writes Bascombe. "We might as well pitch our tents and settle down in the same territory as 12 months ago."
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