Luis Suarez: Player Profile
Luis Suarez divides opinion like few others in the world of football. From the red side of Liverpool, where he is lauded as a mythical Zeus-like footballing God, idolised as one of the great Anfield heroes, to – well, the rest of the nation, really, where he is despised as a racist, thug, zombie – you name it. Yet one thing that is certain among this juxtapose of opinions is that he is one of the finest strikers in world football at the minute.
Luis Suarez was born in Salto, Uruguay on January 24th 1987. He moved to Montevideo when he was 7. When he was 11 years old, he was invited to a youth training camp, but had to decline as he could not afford football boots. Suarez joined his local side Nacional at age 14, and played in the youth team for two years. In May 2005, Suarez made his first team debut for Nacional in the Copa Libertadores. He went on to help the team win the 2005/06 Uruguayan league scoring 10 goals in 27 games.
He was scouted by Groningen, a Dutch team, when their scouts were in Uruguay watching another player. During the game, Suarez scored a penalty and a wonder goal, and after watching the match, the scouts approached Luis to sign him for Groningen. He moved there for 800,000 Euros at the age of 19. Suarez was delighted with moving to Europe as his girlfriend had recently moved to Barcelona. (In 2009, he married his childhood girlfriend, Sofia Balbi, and they had their first child, daughter Delfina in 2010.)
He struggled with the language and Dutch playing style, as he couldn’t speak Dutch or English, and he was placed in the second team to adjust. Fellow Uruguayan, Bruno Silva, helped him settle into his new life, and he worked hard to learn Dutch. Suarez would end the season scoring 10 goals in 29 league appearances, with Groningen finishing Eighth in the 2006/07 Eredivisie. He would also make his European debut in a 4-2 loss against Partizan Belgrade.
After just one season with Groningen, Ajax offered 3.5 million Euros for him, but the bid was rejected. Suarez himself was unhappy it was rejected and took matters to the KNVB committee to try to facilitate the sale. The committee ruled against him, but Ajax made another offer on the same day, and Groningen accepted the offer selling him for 7.5 million Euros.
He signed a five-year deal with Ajax, making his debut in the Champions league qualifier against Slavia Prague. He scored on his debut in the Eredivise, and two in his home debut. He helped the team finish second place in the 2007/08 season, scoring 17 goals in 33 league appearances. In his second season with Ajax, Dutch legend, and then Ajax coach/manager, Marco van Basten sighted how Suarez played an important part in many of Ajax’s goals, but was also upset at the number of yellow cards he’d receive.
Suarez went on to finish the season scoring 22 goals n 31 league games, with Ajax finishing third in the league. He was named Ajax Player of the Year. Before the start of the 2009/10 season, van Basten was replaced by Martin Jol. Jol’s first job was to name Suarez captain, with the departure of Thomas Vermaelen to Arsenal. Suarez would score early in the season, scoring 3 goals against RKC Waalwijk, 4 against Slovan Bratislava, Roda, and VVV-Venlo, and six goals in the KNVB Cup as Ajax would go on to win the game 14-1, recording a club-record.
Suarez would score two in the second leg of the KNVB Cup final against Feyenoord, as Ajax would go on to win the Cup 6-1 on aggregate. This would be his first honor in Dutch football, but Ajax would finish second in the league behind FC Twente in the 2009/10 season, despite Suarez scoring 35 goals in 33 games in the league, 49 goals in all competitions. For the second straight year, he was named as Ajax Player of the Year, and also named as Dutch Footballer of the Year.
Clubs across Europe were beginning to show interest in Suarez, after his goals for Ajax, and his 2010 World Cup performance. After his return from international football, he scored his 100th goal for Ajax against PAOK in a 1-1 draw, elevating him into an elite group alongside Dutch greats such as Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp to score 100 or more goals for Ajax. He continued his scoring form, after another hat trick against De Graafschap.
On January 2011, Ajax accepted a bid from Liverpool of 26.5 million Euros. He departed Ajax on good terms, having a farewell sendoff after an Ajax game. During his time there, he scored 111 goals in 159 games. Ajax won the 2010/11 season and awarded Suarez with a winner’s medal for his 7 goals in 13 games.
He signed for Liverpool on a five-and-a-half-year deal, ending in 2016. He asked for the number seven jersey, but did not realize it had been worn by Liverpool legends, Kevin Keegan, and then manager of Liverpool, Kenny Dalglish. Afterwards, he said he appreciated the expectations associated with it. He made his Liverpool debut against Stoke at home in a 2-0 win, scoring the second goal after coming on as a substitute. During the rest of the season, he was one of Liverpool’s best players, helping take them from twelth to sixth, scoring 4 goals in 13 games.
Suarez had a disappointing season during 2011/12, scoring 11 goals in the league, with Liverpool finishing eighth. His first hat trick for the club came against Norwich City. He won his first trophy in English football as Liverpool won the League Cup, and finished sixth place in the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or. At the start of the 2012/13 season, he signed a new contract with Liverpool, which tied him to the club until 2017.
In January, he scored his seventh goal in three matches, and a week later, would captain Liverpool for the first time in the FA Cup against Oldham Athletic, losing 3-2. In March, Suarez scored another hat-trick in a 4-0 victory against Wigan, which saw him become only the third player for the club to score 20 English Premier League goals in a single season, after Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres. Suarez would finish the 2012/13 season scoring 23 goals, missing the last 4 games due to suspension.
Suarez has made 62 appearances for Uruguay scoring 31 goals. He played in the 2010 World Cup, which saw Uruguay make the semi-finals, after Suarez blocked Ghana’s Dominic Adiyiah’s header with his hand, which would have been a match winner. Ghana went on to miss the penalty after Suarez had been red carded. The match went to penalties, with Uruguay winning 4-2. After the game, Suarez said “I made the save of the tournament.” However, Ghana coach Milovan Rajvas said his play was an injustice, and Suarez was labeled a cheat. Uruguay would lose the semi-final game against Netherlands 3-2, which took them to a third place game against Germany in which Suarez returned, and was booed every time he got the ball. During the tournament, he made six appearances, scoring three goals.
In 2011, Uruguay won the Copa America with Suarez having great performances throughout the tournament, scoring 4 goals, and he was named Player of the Tournament. He also played for his country at the 2012 London Olympics, and was named captain of the team. Uruguay were beaten in the first round as they lost two of their three games, with Suarez failing to score.
Suarez has been involved in a lot of controversy throughout the years, and it started at the young age of 15 after he headbutted a referee during a game. His coach at Nacional threatened Suarez, saying he would never play again if he didn’t take football more seriously, after Suarez was caught drinking and partying.
During his time at Ajax, Suarez was suspended after a halftime altercation with his then Ajax teammate, Albert Luque over a free kick. On November 2010, he was in trouble once more for biting then PSV player, Otman Bakkal on the shoulder, which saw him branded as “Cannibal of Ajax” in the newspapers. He was banned for seven games for the incident, which would see the end of him in Dutch football.
After his move to Liverpool, he was involved in a racial abuse incident with Patrice Evra on October 2011. In December, after the FA had investigated the incident (because for some reason it takes 2 months), Suarez was given an eight-match ban. Liverpool were said to be “very surprised and disappointed” at the ban, citing his mixed race family background as well as his involvement in multicultural projects as a defence against the charges. Suarez apparently used the word “negro” towards Evra, a common word in Suarez’s home country.
On April 2013, Suarez was given a 10 match ban, for biting Chelsea player Branislav Ivanovic, in a game which finished 2-2, with Suarez scoring a late goal to earn Liverpool a point after the officials missed the incident.
Suarez’s playing style is very unique, with power, aerial ability and technical ability. Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish said, “he’s intelligent, he’s had a fantastic education at Ajax.” Suarez has recognized Ajax legends, Henk ten Cate, van Basten, Bergkamp and Frank de Boer, for teaching him about football at the club. He noted van Basten for teaching him the techniques and movement required for a forward, and learned from all of them to be composed in front of goal and not react to fouls (although he still has to work on this last part).
Suarez’s future seems to be with Liverpool with the striker saying he wants to stay, and Liverpool saying they want him to stay, after his incident with Ivanovic. His contract ends in 2017, and at 26, he still has a lot to give to the club, and should maintain his status as a leading striker in the world in the coming seasons if he stays out of trouble.
Article By Alan Murphy