Utter the name “Luis Suarez” and it will instantly stir up tangible emotions from any football fan, let alone a Liverpool supporter. The Uruguayan sprinkled his magic at Anfield and has continued his rise in Spain. It hasn’t all been good news though, with racism allegations, biting incidents and more being just as much a part of the history of this troubled genius.
We’ll cover it all below as we take a look at one of the greatest players to ever grace the pitch at L4.
24 January 1987, Salto, Uruguay. Luis Alberto Suarez Diaz is born to Sandra Diaz and Rodolfo Suarez. Salto is the second-largest city in Uruguay, with a population of approximately 104,000, for context, the population of Liverpool is approximately 500,000.
At the time of Suarez’s birth and some time before, South America had its political issues. Uruguay was under a period of dictatorship before returning to democracy three years before Suarez was born. Reforms began to change the structural makeup of the country but it would take time for education and opportunity to truly improve.
With six brothers, it was a busy household and at the age of 7, Suarez moved with his family to the Uruguayan capital: Montevideo. It wouldn’t be long before the nifty footwork Suarez was displaying on the streets of his hometown and in the capital would be noticed.
Luis Suarez was picked up by Nacional’s youth team aged just 14. The Montevidean side proved to be the perfect match for Suarez’s early career, though some would argue he would have been better off at rival side Liverpool FC... yes you read that right.
While he didn’t join our namesakes, he did make it into the Nacional first team aged 18. This was despite an alleged incident of Suarez headbutting a referee while playing for the youth side. It was an early indication of Suarez’s fiery temper and poor decision-making that would continue to have a hold on his career going forward.
Suarez made 27 appearances for Nacional, scoring 10 goals in the process.
Europe Calls Luis Suarez
In July 2006 Suarez got his move to Europe. Spotted as a scout was visiting Nacional to actually look at a team mate, the young striker caught the eye of the Groningen contingent and wheels began to turn. At the time of accepting the move to the Netherlands, Suarez’s long-term girlfriend Sofia (now wife) had moved away to Barcelona with her family. Suarez was desperate to move closer and Groningen presented a perfect opportunity to do so.
Suarez joined Groningen aged 19 and while they had obviously spotted a spark in him, the decision was made to start the Uruguayan in the 2nd team initially.
Setting an almost carbon copy for his Nacional stats, Suarez scored 10 goals in 29 appearances for the Dutch side before his next club came calling.
Ajax paid £6.75 million for the ex-Nacional striker, a significant purchase for a side looking to improve their league form at the time. Suarez scored 17 goals in 33 games in his first season, helping Ajax finish 2nd in Eredivisie. Along the way, he picked up several bookings, some argued this showed Suarez’s desire for the cause but his sometimes reckless nature was already starting to irk some.
By the 2009/2010 season, Martin Jol was now manager and he names Luis Suarez as Ajax captain, a big responsibility for the now 22-year-old. Jol’s decision was paid back in earnest though as El Pistolero began to form the reasoning to his nickname. He finished the season as top goalscorer with 35 goals in 33 matches and 49 goals in all competitions. Ajax finished 2nd again and Suarez was named Dutch Footballer of the Year.
As the 2010/2011 season began, Suarez was involved in what would turn out to be the first in a string of biting incidents. In November 2010, Suarez bit PSV’s Otman Bakkal on the shoulder. His original two-match suspension was extended to seven matches with the media and others crowning him the “cannibal of Ajax.”
Welcome To Anfield
On 31 January 2011, Suarez officially signed a £22.8 million deal to join Liverpool Football Club, making him the Reds most expensive ever signing… until we signed Andy Carroll a couple of hours later.
Could he do it on a cold Wednesday night in February against Stoke? Yes, yes he could. Suarez netted in front of the Kop on his debut and helped Kenny Dalglish’s side finish 6th in the league.
During his first full season at the club (2011/2012) Liverpool finished 8th and Suarez netted 11 league goals. He also helped his side pick up some silverware, beating Cardiff in the League Cup on penalties.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that Suarez was operating in a relatively weak Liverpool side, yes he had Gerrard and yes he formed a ridiculous partnership with Daniel Sturridge but this wasn’t a team of winners, Suarez brought that tenacity with him. His anger got the better of him we know this but that red mist is often what helped drag Liverpool across the line, he would never, ever give up. Football and winning just meant too much.
He was selfish when he needed to be but also immensely generous, his ability to evade defenders was phenomenal, a more intelligent player than I feel some gave him credit for – he could read the game well and in front of goal? Prolific.
As his career continued at Liverpool he became a vital piece in Brendan Rodgers’ title pushing side. In the 2013 / 2014 season, Suarez became one in only a handful of ex-Reds to score more than 30 goals in a season for the club. The first player to reach that milestone at the time since the great Ian Rush.
By the end of that season though it was clear Suarez wanted a fresh start. He’d only remained the previous season after Steven Gerrard pleaded with him and while the £40,000,001 bid from Arsenal must have sounded tempting… he was only really destined for one club. We’ll come back to that shortly.
How can one man create such terror in the eyes of the Canaries? It’s absolutely phenomenal and still cracks me up. Our fans chanting Suarez’s name at a recent fixture with Norwich was hilarious too but Delia Smith must hate the guy I mean honestly?
Suarez scored 12 goals against Norwich in six league games.
On 28 April 2012, El Pistolero started his torture of Norwich, scoring a superb hat trick. I think one of my favourite strikes of his was the second on this day, a textbook powerful strike from the Uruguayan.
He ended his punishment of Norwich with a final goal in a 3-2 win away at Norwich in April 2014.
To score three hat tricks against the same club is something special, in fact, he was the first player in Premier League history to do so and I’ll forever enjoy watching back those goals.
Biting and Bans
His time travelling from South America and on to Europe was an exciting one for Luis Suarez, but unfortunately, he dragged around a lot of controversy with him.
Suarez was involved in what would turn out to be the first in a string of biting incidents. In November 2010 when he bit PSV’s Otman Bakkal on the shoulder. His original two-match suspension was extended to seven matches with the media and others crowing him the “cannibal of Ajax.” It was a bizarre incident which could perhaps be excused by Suarez losing his rag but a pattern began to form
On 21 April 2013 in a match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the Uruguayan bit Branislav Ivanovic, it wasn’t noticed at the time and he scored in the match but he was later fined and given a 10 match ban. A ten-match ban was the last thing Liverpool needed.
Watching somebody like Suarez and realising what a genius he is for your club makes it extremely difficult when he decides to make such mad decisions, why on earth would you bite somebody on a football pitch? The first occasion you think ok he’s clearly just got a bit riled up there, twice? Maybe I can just about accept that you clearly have anger issues and are reacting in completely the wrong way but thrice?
I remember watching the Italy v Uruguay match at the 2014 World Cup cause I’m a big fan of Italian football and obviously also had a vested interest in our man Suarez. I could not believe it watching Suarez and Chiellini waiting for the cross, I saw Suarez lean forward and instantly thought “not again, surely?”. Sure enough, Chiellini paraded the mark on his shoulder to the ref and Suarez had indeed bitten another player once again. This time he was banned from all “football-related activities” which at the time, perhaps in my bias, I actually thought was quite harsh but to be fair they were running out of punishments at this point.
Away from the biting incidents, Luis Suarez was also embroiled in racism allegations made by Patrice Evra in October 2011 after a match against Manchester United. A three man FA panel found Suarez guilty of racially abusing Evra and he was served with an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine.
Looking back at the time now and having listened to people like Jordan Henderson and Jamie Carragher speak up on the club’s reaction to the situation, I too felt a little hoodwinked by the club and representatives who understandably may have wanted to protect a player but also should have realised the danger of sending out the team in those Suarez shirts. It really sent a horrible message out to any victim of racist abuse and I for one regret the way we acted as a club in the initial days after the accusations.
“Looking back on it now, I am not sure the club or everybody dealt with it in the best way.”Jordan Henderson
The club has since apologised and although it may seem like too little too late, I think it was a huge lesson for the club, players and us as supporters (some not all).
Luis Suarez and his Barca Dream
On 11 July 2014, Suarez agreed a contract with a fee of £73.5 million to join Barcelona. A dream he’d held since he was a young boy in Montevideo, his desire to be in Barcelona with his family was finally achieved.
His start to Spanish life was somewhat hindered by his aforementioned third biting incident but after an appeal on the ban from “all football-related activities” he was eventually allowed to train with his Barcelona team mates.
“Playing and living in Spain is a lifelong dream and ambition”Luis Suarez
The Uruguayan made his competitive debut on 25 October 2014 away to Real Madrid. A massive game to enter life as a Barca player. Suarez netted his first goal for his new club on 26 November 2014 in a 4-0 victory over APOEL In the Champions League group stages. In February of 2015, he scored twice against Manchester City in the round of 16.
In March of the same year, Suarez came up against Real Madrid again and sent Camp Nou crazy with the winning goal in a 2-1 win.
Suarez has scored some phenomenal goals over the years for Barca, two of my favourites coming against PSG when he nutmegged David Luiz twice, brilliant!
Suarez joining Barca aged just 27 was a match made in heaven. The Spanish giants knew they were getting a world-class player but you can never quite predict how somebody will fit into a club that has peak talent at every corner of the pitch. Suarez slotted in beautifully though scoring 16 goals in 25 appearances in the league in his first season and 40 league goals in 35 appearances in his second season.
El Pistolero became a dominant force for Barca alongside Messi and Neymar, he consistently scored 20+ league goals each season. In the 2016/2017 season, he took the accolade of creating more goals and assists in his first 100 matches in Spain than Ronaldo and Messi. Phenomenal.
He scored his 100th goal for the club in January 2017 and was dripping in silverware, medals and personal achievements. In October 2018 his hat trick against Real Madrid made him only the second Barcelona player after Lionel Messi to score a league hat-trick in El Clasico in the past two decades.
Eventually though, it was time to say goodbye to Barcelona and take on his next challenge.
*There was also that small match at Anfield where Gini and Divock both scored twice and Trent demonstrated the best corner you’ve ever seen in your life… was Suarez there? I can’t remember…
Road to Madrid
Luis Suarez signed for Atletico Madrid on 23rd September 2020. He originally appeared to be on his way to Italy after he was linked with a move to Juventus but it was alleged he tried to cheat his way to an Italian passport.
Just seven days after signing, El Pistolero made his debut for his 6th club and scored twice in a 6-1 victory over Granada. It was no surprise that Suarez made an immediate impact at Atletico, he always seemed a good fit for that side and he’s a big reason they are still looking such a strong outfit in La Liga.
In January this year, the Uruguayan scored a brace against Eibar meaning he’d hit double figures in each of his last 10 league campaigns. Pure consistency.
He helped Atletico win their first league title in seven years and was named top goalscorer with 21 goals earlier this year, proving he’s still at the top of his game.
What’s next for Luis Suarez?
Luis Suarez turns 35 next year meaning he’s certainly in the twilight years of a striker. I don’t think he’ll be leaving Atletico just yet, but the time will come and what’s next?
He doesn’t strike me as somebody who will go into the media, far from it. I could see him in some form of coaching/management role but not yet. If he wasn’t so tied to Spain and how close he is with his family, I’d predict something like a couple of seasons in the MLS but who knows.
Whatever your thoughts on the Uruguayan, he has certainly left an impact on the world of football and will be spoken about for years to come. Will he find the net against the Reds on Tuesday night? Probably.