Graeme Souness believes Liverpool must keep Luis Suarez if they want to have a chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
Manager Brendan Rodgers is targeting an improved finish in the Premier League next season with a place in the top four his aim.
But that will not be a realistic option if they cash in on Suarez, who has become unsettled at the club and attracted the interest of Real Madrid, according to former Reds midfielder and manager Souness.
He told Sky Sports: "It is upsetting for Liverpool supporters as this year he has been a star, his goals have been vital.
"Going forward, they want to get themselves into the Champions League again and that would be doubly difficult if they did not have Luis Suarez.
"They are in a great position as he signed a five-year deal last year and he is obviously a vital part of what they want to achieve going forward.
"He gets goals for them and goals win you games, goals get you up the table and goals get you in the Champions League which is where Liverpool want to be."
Suarez has complained about his treatment at the hands of the British media but Souness has no sympathy for the situation the striker finds himself in.
"I find it a wee bit strange that he is complaining about the press because at the end of the day he has got to look at himself, he has brought it on himself what he has been involved in - but there is no getting away from it, he is a star and Liverpool have got to keep him."
Meanwhile, John Aldridge has accused Suarez of 'letting Liverpool down' after declaring his intention to quit Anfield this summer.
Aldridge has been a vocal supporter of Suarez during the controversies that have littered his turbulent two-and-a-half years at Liverpool, but he has been angered by the Uruguayan's lack of loyalty and believes the goodwill towards the player has evaporated.
"Every Liverpool fan will feel let down by his desperation to leave Anfield," Aldridge told the Sunday World. "Manager Brendan Rodgers and his players will question why they gave Suarez so much support and the club's hierarchy must suspect they got it wrong backing a player who does not appear to have appreciated that support.
"History will mark Suarez down as another Fernando Torres, a striker who did great things for the club and then did a runner the minute he got the hint of a decent offer from another club. A true Liverpool legend? He will never be that now.
"I was among those hoping Suarez would buck the current trend and show a bit of loyalty to Liverpool, but this story confirms once again that every player seems to be in this game to make as much money as they can as quickly as they can.
"I felt Suarez owed the club another year to try and get them back into the Champions League after all they have done for him, but I should know better than to trust in the loyalty of modern footballers who barely know the meaning of the word."