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Liverpool closing in on Ajax star Luis Suarez as team-mates urge him to stay until the summer

By Greg Stobart | Northern Correspondent

Liverpool are confident of landing Ajax star Luis Suarez after signs of progress emerged during tough negotiations between the two clubs.

Reds officials have been locked in talks with the Dutch club and hope to sign the Uruguayan striker for £15-18 million, despite Ajax manager Frank De Boer's insistence that it would take an "absurd" amount to sign him.

Ajax are believed to be demanding £26m for the 23-year-old but a compromise is expected to be reached – even as early as Thursday – after the player made it clear he wanted to move to Merseyside and form a partnership with Fernando Torres.

Liverpool are ready to include £6m-rated Ryan Babel, who originally signed from Ajax in 2007, in the deal but the cash-strapped Dutch giants are understood to favour a straight cash deal to maximise their financial return.

While Liverpool close in on their main January transfer target, Suarez's Ajax team-mates are still hopeful that their talisman will stay in the Netherlands for the rest of the season and leave in the summer.

Speaking to Holland's Wout Stravers, Ajax midfielder Demy de Zeeuw said: “I think he stays at Ajax. When you know Luis, you know he only wants to go to a real big club. He could have left Ajax so many times already in the past.

“Do I rate Liverpool as a big club? Of course Liverpool is a big club. But I don't know if Luis wants to go there. We hear a lot of reports, but he didn't say he wants to join Liverpool yet. I didn't ask him.

“It's not my business. It's his choice. We only can hope that he is staying and say goodbye at the end of the season with a price and a proud feeling.”

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish wants to bolster his squad this month after the club's poor start to the season. Along with Damien Comolli, director of football strategy, Suarez has been identified as the man to add goals, creativity and energy to the Reds' forward line.

Suarez scored 110 goals in 154 games for the Dutch giants and netted a stunning 49 times last season but is now keen to link up with the Spanish-speaking contingent at Anfield. Tottenham were also very interested but are now considering alternative options.

His relationship with the Ajax hierarchy has deteriorated this season and it is understood that he was unhappy that the club failed to appeal against his seven-match ban incurred by the Dutch Football Federation in late November for biting PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal.

Suarez’s domestic ban keeps him on the sidelines until February 4 and it is likely that he has played his final game for the club, which team-mate De Zeeuw believes would be sad for the player and the team.

“I don't think Suarez wants to leave via the back door after such a suspension,” added De Zeeuw. “You don't want to say goodbye in this way.”

Should Suarez complete a move to Merseyside, he may soon be joined by Aston Villa left-back Stephen Warnock, with the former Red in line for a loan move until the end of the season with a view to a permanent deal in the summer.

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