Liverpool have banished Luis Suarez to train away from the first-team squad until he is ready to show respect to his club and teammates - a move that underlines their refusal to be cowed by a player whose contract leaves them under no obligation to sell.
The club, already deeply unhappy that Arsenal appeared to have been made aware of the confidential clause in Suarez's deal allowing him to speak to any club which offered 40 million ($77.95 million) this northern summer, yesterday suffered the further indignity of the Uruguayan publicly accusing his manager, Brendan Rodgers, of reneging on a verbal agreement that he could leave.
But Liverpool have moved rapidly to seek the moral high ground by ostracising Suarez and they do so from a position of strength, as the Professional Footballers Association has also warned the striker that any legal action he begins to force an exit from Liverpool looks doomed to fail.
Suarez's claim, that a clause in his contract allows him to leave if Liverpool fail to reach the 2013-14 Champions League and a side competing in it offers 40 million, does not appear to stand up to legal scrutiny.
PFA chairman Gordon Taylor, who has viewed the document since the association was called in to arbitrate, said last night the relevant clause compelled Liverpool only to let Suarez talk to such a club.
He said there was a clause that if Liverpool did not qualify for the league then got a minimum offer of 40 million, the parties would agree in good faith to discuss and negotiate in good faith and see what transpired.
It was not a straightforward buyout clause and the contract was open to different interpretations.
Suarez suggested there had been a verbal agreement with Rodger,s but Taylor said an informal conversation carried no legal weight.
A challenging week got even harder for Rodgers yesterday when Barcelona bid 17 million for central defender Daniel Agger with a sum closer to 25 million probably necessary to trigger talks.
But legal opinion sought by the Independent made it clear Suarez's threat to seek legal arbitration through the Premier League will not secure him a move before the transfer window closes.
Liverpool's decision to send Suarez to work with the reserves also reflects their feeling that he has shown no respect for Rodgers' training sessions, the last of which he limped out of with a foot injury hours before airing grievances about the club's refusal to let him join Arsenal. The PFA is also aware of Liverpool's deep discontent that Arsenal were able to discover details of the 40 million clause, enabling them to bid 1 more than that sum and trigger talks last month. Suarez will have signed a confidentiality clause when concluding the contract.
This issue may muddy the waters if Suarez now seeks legal redress. Middlesbrough's case against Liverpool over Christian Ziege dragged on for months, when the Teesside club argued that the Merseysiders profited from confidential information to bid at Ziege's exact 5.5 million release clause in 2000. The two sides settled out of court.
A Premier League panel ruled against Gabriel Heinze in 2007 when he claimed Manchester United had given him written permission to pursue a transfer to Liverpool.
Taylor indicated the PFA believes Liverpool might not have been in this position had they consulted the players' union over the controversial clause, which is relatively rare.
The PFA has also told the Premier League it is concerned about such clauses, which threaten fractures between clubs and players that harm the game's image.
"These 'buy-out' clauses can lead to ambiguity when there is English law and the laws of another country," Taylor said.