Real Madrid are in pole position to sign Luis Suarez - but will have to wait until the end of the season to land the Liverpool striker.
Goal has learned that the Spanish giants have expressed an informal interest in the Uruguayan as they make long-term plans to reinforce their front line.
However, a January move is almost out of the question due to Madrid's lack of funds and Liverpool's reluctance to sell their prized asset in mid-season.
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|Alberto Pinero | Goal Spain
Barring a severe injury crisis, it’s almost a certainty that Real Madrid will not add to their squad during the winter transfer window.
Madrid are currently using the remainder of the campaign to gauge the effectiveness of Karim Benzema leading their line and the France international could be sold in the summer if he fails to convince.
Madrid’s lack of a formal offer for Luis Suarez in the summer was due to the expensive nature of Gareth Bale’s arrival from Tottenham and while a move next year for the Uruguay international cannot be ruled out, the Spanish club will also be keeping tabs on Monaco’s Falcao and Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski.
Karim Benzema is the only senior centre-forward at the Santiago Bernabeu following the July sale of Gonzalo Higuain, and the club's priority is to reinforce the position at the end of the season.
Liverpool are privately adamant they will resist any bids for the striker in the January window but accept they have a fight on their hands to hold on to the 26-year-old in the long term.
The Merseysiders rejected a bid of £40 million plus £1 for Suarez from Arsenal last summer after the Gunners had been led to believe the offer would be enough to trigger a release clause in the contract signed by the player in 2012.
Suarez, who was one of 23 players shortlisted last week for the Fifa Ballon d'Or, claimed in a recent interview to be unaware of any interest from Madrid but it is understood intermediaries representing the Spanish club have outlined their intention to make a move for the player next year.
The Uruguayan spoke frequently of his interest in a move last summer, most specifically to Madrid. However, the nine-time European Cup winners did not make a formal bid and used most of their transfer budget to sign Gareth Bale for a world-record £86m from Tottenham.
Despite offloading Mesut Ozil to Arsenal for £42m and Higuain to Napoli for an initial £31m, Madrid are unlikely to have the funds to bid the £45m-plus it would take to prise Suarez from Liverpool in January.
A concerted attempt to capture the striker, who has been in sensational form since returning from a 10-match ban, is likely to be put on hold until the end of the season.
The Liverpool hierarchy know they will be in a stronger position to hold on to Suarez if they secure a top-four Premier League finish and qualify for next season's Champions League.
Should the Merseysiders miss out on a Champions League place once again, it is unlikely they would stand in Suarez's way if a huge offer was made from a club who are not considered direct rivals.
Liverpool are adamant that they will not sell the striker at any point to Arsenal, who remain in the market for a marquee centre-forward. The Gunners have now set their sights on alternative targets, including Fernando Llorente and Stephan El Shaarawy.
It would be considered more palatable for Liverpool supporters if Suarez was sold overseas, especially to a club of Madrid's prestige and history.