A controversial week lies behind us, an early exit to Braga in the Europa League was certainly hard to take, but the team went some way to removing that from my memory with a solid performance against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. It was the first time we’d seen Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez start together and they certainly looked like they could form a deadly partnership.
Carroll, just back from fitness, was menacing in the air and caused Sunderland a few problems, almost scoring with a lovely near-post header off the line. But again our little Uruguayan wizard showed us what he’s got in his magic box of tricks with another excellent performance and a fantastic goal, his second for the Reds, scored from an improbable angle to give us a 2-0 win, following Dirk Kuyts, ahem, controversial penalty. I’ve being weighing up all week what to write about – would it be the news that King Kenny was supposedly offered a 2 year deal, would it be that Gerrard would be out for a month, would it be the Europa League heartbreak, maybe even a match report for yesterday .. but I’ve decided to go with an article I’ve been bursting to write – and it’s all about our number 7.
Luis Alberto Suarez Dias, born 24th January 1987(making him 24), hails from Salto in Uruguay, a country famous for it’s consistent development of class footballers despite only holding a population of around 3.5 million(when you compare the quality of players that they produce given their population with the likes of Brazil and Argentina – much larger countries – they do pretty well for themselves). Suarez’ hometown, Salto, is the second largest city in Uruguay, after the capital Montevideo. Coming from a family with six brothers, brought up by their mother alone, times were tough for the wee man back home, with finances tight and times hard(Suarez, like many young children in similar circumstances, played barefoot in the streets for example). However, at a young age Suarez was certainly not expected to make it as a footballer, many people did not see a future for the youngster in the game. However, as he grew older, people soon began to take note of the budding young Uruguayan, and aged 11 Suarez was invited to a training camp in Argentina – however Suarez couldn’t even afford a pair of shoes and had to reject the offer. Thankfully, people did not stop taking a look there.
In 2001(aged just 14) he joined Uruguayan powerhouses Nacional, the Primera Divisions second most successful club and one of the most popular. Soon enough, he was in the first team picture(making his debut aged 16), and a year later Suarez had an impressive record of 12 goals in 29 appearances, being a big part of Nacionals title win that year.
The summer after his title win, Dutch outfit FC Groningen came in for him, and Luis jumped at the chance to move to Europe. At 19 he was off to Holland, for(what is now a bargain) 800,000 Euros. Suarez struggled at first with the transition to Europe, with the language barrier causing him severe problems settling in. He adapted however, having put a lot of time into learning English and Dutch(Suarez was also helped by the presence of compatriot Bruno Silva, a defender).
However, all worries of the kid not coming good were blown away, with his debut season ending with a 17 goal haul for the “Pride of the North”.
Here is where things get a little strange. A fantastic debut season, at just 19, had already brought attention from around Europe and several clubs were contesting for his signature already, including the very reputable Ajax. When Ryan Babel(remember him ?) moved to Anfield in 2007, Suarez was subject of a 3.5 million Euros bid, but when Groningen would not budge, Ajax eventually stumped up (around 7 and a half million Euros) and Uruguay’s brightest prospect was off to probably the perfect breeding ground for young talent.
Suarez made his “de Godenzonen”(meaning Sons of the Gods) debut in a Champions League qualifier, winning a penalty which was subsequently missed by fellow starlet Klass-Jan Huntelaar. His Eredivise debut was incredible, scoring, creating three and winning a penalty in a 8-1 win over De Graafschap. He continued his brilliant start to his Ajax career with a brace into Heerenveen on his home debut. He ended his first season with exactly a goal every 2 games, with 20 in 40, a sublime record for someone so young.
2008-09 was a disappointing season for Ajax, with AZ Alkmaar winning the league in the end, however Suarez himself had a successful season. Despite receiving plenty of criticism for his fiery temper and the amount of bookings he would pick up, he concluded the season with 28 goals in 43 games, another fine season. Such a promising few years, especially at such a young age, had brought attention from around the world again, but he stayed at Ajax and cleaned up(despite another season without a league medal). He won Dutch Player of the Year, and scored an incredible 49 goals in just 48 games, an almost unheard of record.
Suarez then embarked on his first international tournament, as he went to South Africa with the Uruguay squad under Oscar Tabarez. The little hitman, named “El Pistolero), formed a deadly partnership with former United flop-turned-world class forward Diego Forlan. Suarez started all of Uruguays group games, and scored against Mexico meaning that Uruguay finished top of their group. He then scored both goals, including a sensational winner, in the last 16 against South Korea, putting La Celeste into the last eight of the World Cup for the first time in 40 years !.
The quarter finals was where Suarez, despite his goal scoring prowess and his fantastic ability on the ball, would be forever remembered by the footballing world for the most controversial moment in the World Cup itself. Uruguay were neck and neck with Ghana, the only African team left in the tournament so thus carrying the hope and support of the African people, and in the last minute of the game, Ghana looked almost certain to score until Suarez handballed a goal-bound effort off the line, being sent off in the process and giving Ghana a penalty, a chance to go through to the semi finals and make history, but Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan blazed over the bar, and Suarez celebrated wildly as his team went through on penalties to the semi-final.
Follwing the semi-finals exit to losing finalists Holland, Suarez returned to much fanfare and controversy, as well as plenty of transfer speculation, with Suarez linked to most of Europes elite. however he continued his good form for Ajax, scoring 12 in 24 and vowing to stay until he won a title.
However, with Liverpool now under new ownership and in the market for a star signing, a drawn out transfer begun(with a little side story involved if any of you can remember), and on the 29th of January, Luis Suarez signed a five and a half year deal following a 26.5 million Euros bid being accepted by Ajax the day before. Handed the famous number 7 shirt, Suarez had accomplished his dream, he was now at one of the worlds leading clubs. From barefoot street football to Anfield, what a story.
As we all know, he’s started his Reds career magnificently, with two goals to his name already in just five appearances, and already has three assists to his name to prove he wasn’t just a poacher. He scored on his debut against Stoke(after just six minutes on the pitch), and couldn’t have come much closer against Wigan and West Ham. Suarez had just come in the door and he was already proving to be a solid replacement for Fernando Torres, showing sublime skill, excellent work rate, a fantastic football brain and a composed enough finish against Stoke to show that he didn’t look like being an Alfonso Alves or Metaja Kezman, and more of a(without tempting fate) Ruud Van Nistelrooy type of import. The Dutch league is known for it’s inconsistent exports to other leagues, with it being very much like marmite, you either loved it or you hated it elsewhere. Suarez is certainly loving it so far.
His first big game in England, United at Anfield, and I don’t think many of you need reminding how he was that day. He single handedly took on United all day, causing them countless problems, setting up two of Kuyts hat-trick, and showing absolutely no respect to the Red Devils, something you always like to see from a new player. He had truly hit the ground running, and continued his fine form with another virtuoso performance at the Stadium of Light, bagging a goal for himself(what a goal aswell), as well as going close on another couple of occasions, and terrorising John Mensah all game, culminating in the Ghanaian(whoops) being sent off for a tackle on el Pistolero.
Lightning fast, two footed, intelligent, determined, he plays with a fire in his belly, a real spring in his step, lovely little touches and tricks(gliding past defenders never looked so easy) and a confidence not seen at Anfield for quite some time now. His versatility too is a great bonus for him too, as he seems to play all across the front three positions with absolute ease in every performance so far.
I know I just can’t get enough, and can’t wait to see him play again.