With the World Cup on the horizon, and the English Premiere League in full swing, it’s about time Jobu introduces you to one of the best players in the world.
First of all, let me just say that I should have introduced this man to you guys a long time ago. We tend to focus on the lesser known guys, with the assumption that international fútbol fans are aware of the bigger names out there, but I have to make another exception here. This is a guy I’ve always mentioned in my other Uruguay related posts, so you should be somewhat familiar if you’ve been a loyal reader. He is a man of immense talent, although somewhat maligned by recent controversies. We’ll cover the good, the bad (take them both and there you have) and the ugly about him in this post. Meet Luis Suárez!
If you’ve been paying attention to the EPL this year, then you don’t really need to read this post, because you know who he is. He has been on fire this season, and currently leads the EPL in goals despite not playing in the season’s first six games due to a suspension. That’s right, he has 17 goals in just 11 games so far. Amazingly, he had 4 goals against Norwich a couple of weeks ago, and he now has 11 goals in 5 career games against them. As Uncle Jesse would say, have mercy!
That’s not where his club career started, however. Like many good Uruguayan boys before him, Suárez started out playing for the best team in all the (Uruguayan) land, Club Nacional de Fútbol. He joined their youth squad at 14 and made his debut with the big boys in 2005, at the ripe old age of 18. He would go on to score 10 goals in 27 games and help Nacional win the league that year. He was soon discovered by scouts from FC Groningen of the Eredivisie (the Dutch Premiere League), and purchased from Nacional for €800,000. From there, he was eventually purchased by AFC Ajax, also of the Eredivisie, this time for €7.5 MM.
Suárez really hit his stride on Ajax, scoring 17 goals his first year, 22 his second and 35 (in 33 games) in his third. The two latter results earned him the honor of being selected Ajax’s player of the year, he was the overall Dutch Footballer of the Year in his 33 goal season, and he was also named Captain of the squad. After that, and a strong showing in the 2010 World Cup (more to come on that), European teams took notice, and he was eventually sold to the Liverpool for €26.5MM.
To me, that has proven to be a real bargain, as Suárez has raised his game to a whole other level in the English Premiere League. It hasn’t always been pleasant for Luis in England though. He’s been through a lot of disciplinary problems (more on that later), and had a controversial transfer demand go unmet just this past offseason. However, he is now playing the best fútbol of his life, and leaving a lot of goalkeepers crying in his wake. He’s been an absolute terror out there, and there’s no stopping him.
Suárez has been representing La Celeste since 2007, when he played for the U-20 World Cup squad, but he didn’t make his senior debut until after that, in February of that year. He played in 19 of the 20 World Cup qualifying games and scored five goals. He was subsequently named to the 2010 World Cup team, where he helped eventual Golden Ball winner Diego Forlán lead Uruguay to a fourth place finish. Suárez was definitely second banana to Forlán in that tournament (along with pretty much every other player in the world), but he drew a penalty in Uruguay’s 3-0 win over South Africa and scored the only goal in Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Mexico to close out the group stage. In the knockout stages, he hit his groove, knocking in the team’s only two goals in their 2-1 win over South Korea.
It was in the quarter-final against Ghana that Súarez had probably his most famous (and infamous) moment. Late in the match, with the score tied 1-1, Ghana got a phantom foul call near the Uruguayan box and attempted a free kick towards the net. Ghanian striker Stephen Appiah‘s beat Uruguayan Goalie Fernando Muslera, but Suárez was there to kick the ball away. Unfortunately, it went right back to Dominic Adiyiah, who headed it, again, past a beaten Muslera. Out of desperation, and sheer instinct, Suárez slapped the ball away from the goal line with his hands. He was called for the intentional hand ball, given a red card and kicked out of the game. His save seemed to only postpone the inevitable, and he crouched on the sidelines, unable to even face the field, as superstar striker Asamoah Gyan lined up for a penalty shot with no time left. Incredibly, Gyan hit the crossbar, and the game went into extra time, where Uruguay eventually won in penalty kicks.
That play instantly made Suárez one of the more polarizing figures in the entire tournament. Uruguayans lauded him as a hero. Fans of Ghana (and eventually all of Africa) called him the villain of the World Cup, and accused him of being a cheater, and every other nasty name in the book. Here’s how I feel about this. If he doesn’t put his hands up, Uruguay goes home. At that point, he became a second goalie, because Muslera was nowhere to be found, and he did what he’s supposed to do, which is whatever it takes to win. This wasn’t a dirty play. It wasn’t Diego Maradona punching a ball into the net to beat England in ’86 (video). Also, unlike Maradona, Suárez was spotted, called for the hand ball, kicked out of the game and suspended for the semi-final match against Holland. He was punished to the fullest extent of the rules. Also, Ghana was given a chance to knock in the winning penalty with no chance for Uruguayan retaliation, and they blew it. Let’s never discuss this play again, shall we?
Anyway, Suárez has clearly risen to be Uruguay’s best player, supplanting the aging Forlán as Uruguay’s number one striker. He scored four goals in Uruguay’s record 15th Copa América title in 2011. He also led Uruguay in scoring during the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, although Uruguay was knocked out by Brazil, who went on to win the tournament. In that tournament, Suárez scored his 35th goal, making him Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer (just above Forlán). He now has 39 goals, after finishing the qualifying rounds of the 2014 cup against Jordan just a few weeks ago.
We’ve alluded briefly to Suárez’s disciplinary problems, but the more I read about him, the more I kept finding, so I decided to dedicate an entire section to this area of his life. He’s been in and out of trouble with leagues for his entire career, even back in his days on Nacional’s youth squad, where he was caught drinking and partying at 15. Throughout his career he’s been suspended (by both the league and his teams) for excessive yellow and red cards, and otherwise letting his emotions and the spirit of hard play, get in the way of his immense talent.
The last two years have been particularly ugly on this front for Luis. In October of 2011, after a 1-1 tie against Manchester United, Patrice Evra accused him of using racial slurs against him on the field of play. Suárez, of course, denied the allegations, and pleaded not guilty when the case was brought in front of the Football Association. Whether he did it or not (I’m not entirely sold on it, based on reported eye witness accounts) Suárez was found guilty, fined €40,000 and suspended for eight games. During their next meeting, and this I was disappointed by, Suárez refused to shake Evra’s hand. He was later forced to apologize. In a separate incident that year, Suárez was suspended for a game for making an obscene gesture towards Fulham fans.a
The fun continued the next season when, on April 21st, 2013, Suárez appeared to bite Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea. Suárez charged by the FA, and they fined him an undisclosed amount and suspended him for 10 games, basically to set an example to the rest of the league, and also, in my opinion, to put a seemingly out of control Suárez in his place. This suspension is why he missed the first six games of this season.
Suárez’s Style on the Pitch
That’s right, in England, it’s called the pitch. Anyway, what can I say about Súarez’s style that can’t be shown by his incredible statistics so far this season. He’s in full beast mode right now, and also at his physical prime, which is a very dangerous combination for opponents. He can basically score with any part of his body, whether his legs or his head. Say what you will about him off the pitch, there are only a handful of guys that match his skill set between the white lines. He’s the type of player that basically devours the field, and defenders along with him. He’s going to leave everything on the field no matter what too.
He can beat you with power and finesse alike. You’ll see him beat defenders one on one, sky for a big header, and even curve some nasty free kicks into the top right corners, where goalies can’t even dream of touching them. There’s no doubt in my mind that Suárez is a difference maker out there. When Uruguay didn’t have him on the field for the 2010 semis against Holland, they lost. i don’t think that’s a coincidence. He’s even better now than he was then, and will be a huge part of any possible run Uruguay makes in this cup. That is, unless he does something crazy and gets himself suspended. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen, and here’s hoping to cheer him on in Brazil this summer.
Featured image courtesy of: Getty Images
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2079381/Luis-Suarez-banned-finger-Fulham-fans.html (back)
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