BARCELONA (Reuters) - Liverpool have agreed to sell disgraced Uruguay striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona with great reluctance after trying all they could to keep him, manager Brendan Rodgers said on Friday.
Suarez is to sign a five-year deal with the Spanish giants, pending a medical. According to media reports, the transfer fee is around 64 million pounds ($108.90 million).
"Luis is a very special talent and I thank him for the role he has played in the team in the past two years ... my time at Liverpool," Rodgers said in an emotional statement on the club website (www.liverpoolfc.com).
"The club have done all they can over a sustained period of time to try to keep Luis at Liverpool. It is with great reluctance and following lengthy discussions we have eventually agreed to his wishes to move to Spain for new experiences and challenges."
Earlier, Barcelona and Premier League runners-up Liverpool jointly announced that the 27-year-old was moving to the Nou Camp. "The player will travel to Barcelona next week for a medical and sign a contract for the next five seasons," the Spanish team said in a statement.
Rodgers said Suarez's 23 million pounds move from Ajax Amsterdam to Liverpool in January 2011 had made him a better footballer.
"I think he would be the first to accept he has improved as a player over that period...as we have benefited from him," explained the Anfield boss.
"We are focused on the future as we strive to continue with the progress we have made and build on last season's excellent Barclays Premier League campaign.
"I am confident we will improve the team further and will be stronger this coming season when we will be competing on all fronts, domestically and in the greatest club competition in the world, the Champions League."
Suarez was expelled from the World Cup in Brazil last month and given a nine-match competitive international ban as well as a four-month suspension from any soccer-related activities for biting Giorgio Chiellini. After initially denying that he bit the Italy defender, the Uruguayan later issued a carefully-worded statement admitting his offence, the third time he has bitten an opponent during a match, and vowed there would be no repeat.
Suarez was the Premier League's top scorer last season with 31 goals and the news of his deal with Barca came a day after the Spanish league runners-up agreed to sell Chile forward Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal.
Liverpool have been champions of Europe five times, most recently in 2005, and Rodgers said he was striving to push them back among the elite of European football.
"If there is one thing the history of this great club teaches us it is that Liverpool FC is bigger than any individual," he explained.
"I hope our supporters continue to dream and believe that we are moving forward and with continued improvement and progression, together we will bring the success we all crave and deserve." Suarez said he was leaving Liverpool "with a heavy heart" but added that moving to Spain had been "a lifelong dream and ambition".
"Both me and my family have fallen in love with this club and with the city," he said in a message to the Anfield fans.
"This club did all they could to get me to stay but playing and living in Spain, where my wife's family live, is a lifelong dream and ambition. I believe now the timing is right.
"I wish Brendan Rodgers and the team well for the future. The club is in great hands and I'm sure will be successful again next season," said Suarez.
"I am very proud I have played my part in helping to return Liverpool to the elite of the Premier League and in particular back into the Champions League.
"Thank you again for some great moments and memories. You'll Never Walk Alone," he added in a reference to the club's famous anthem.
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