By Paul Clennam
Liverpool have made the first step in their bid to tie Luis Suarez down to a club-record contract.
Managing director Ian Ayre flew to Barcelona to hold talks with Suarez's agent, Pere Guardiola, on Tuesday and, although he did not offer a new deal, the meeting signals the Reds' intent to avoid another protracted summer saga.
It is understood that the club are prepared to pay their star forward more than £130,000 (€154,000) per week to stay at Anfield for the long-term.
Liverpool, under the stewardship of Fenway Sports Group, have traditionally been reluctant to open contract negotiations during the season but are desperate to fend off interest in the Uruguay international, whose current deal expires in 2016.
The 26-year-old has been in blistering form since returning from suspension for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, scoring 17 Premier League goals in 11 games and keeping his side just two points behind Arsenal at the top of the table.
Goal understands that Real Madrid are preparing to lay the groundwork on a £60 million (€70m) move in January, though the Spanish giants expect a deal to be more likely next summer.
Suarez spent the summer angling for a move away from Anfield in pursuit of Champions League football, which strained relations between the player, his agent and the club.
But he has put that behind with a string of exceptional displays and is now settled on Merseyside once more. Liverpool, for their part, believe that the striker's efforts were driven by Champions League ambition rather than financial reward and hope to offer him both next season.
After being named the Football Supporters' Federation's player of the year for 2013 on Monday, Suarez said: "After so many difficult moments for me I was able to win the supporters back, and that was unbelievable when I came back to play."