Loved in Liverpool, brilliant at Barcelona and now banging them in for Atletico Madrid… Luis Suarez still has an appetite for destruction and Chelsea are in his sights
- Chelsea host Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday evening
- The Blues won the first leg of the last-16 tie 1-0 via Olivier Giroud’s bicycle kick
- Luis Suarez has continued to play at an elite level since joining the Spanish side
- The ex-Liverpool and Barcelona man is looking to haunt another English team
He was horrible to play against. He would kick you, he would scratch, he would do anything — but a pure winner.
That ‘pure winner’ is Luis Suarez, one of the most notorious characters in English football in the modern era and the main obstacle between Chelsea and a place in the quarter-final of the Champions League.
The description is Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster’s but would be echoed by many of Suarez’s opponents during more than a decade in elite club football.
Luis Suarez has continued to score goals for fun since joining Atletico Madrid in the summer
At 34, with 18 trophies won and an enviable bank balance, many top footballers might opt for a quieter life.
Not Suarez, who has used the anger he felt at being cast aside by Barcelona to produce a storming season for Atletico Madrid, scoring 18 goals to propel his new club to the top of LaLiga.
No wonder Lionel Messi was furious when Barca decided to let his big pal leave for only £6million.
‘It doesn’t surprise me,’ says Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, who worked with Suarez for two seasons at Anfield. ‘If you’re talking about an ideal footballer, top of the scale is mental toughness and Luis has incredible mental toughness.
‘He had this hunger to succeed. You could have paid him whatever you wanted but it was never going to change him. He had appetite and desire.
The Uruguayan has netted 18 times in 29 appearances in all competitions for his new club
‘He had legendary status at Barcelona but it didn’t end so well so he probably feels as if he wants to prove a point. He is so competitive and a natural goalscorer.’
Has there ever been a bland period in Suarez’s career?
During his three and a half years at Liverpool, he was banned for eight matches for racist language used towards Patrice Evra and 10 for biting Branislav Ivanovic.
There were also some of the best individual displays of the Premier League era, notably in the 2013-14 season when Suarez scored 31 goals and nearly delivered the title.
His achievements at Barcelona were remarkable – 198 goals and 10 major trophies in six seasons yet it was perhaps inevitable it would end in controversy, with Suarez told by boss Ronald Koeman last summer that he was not needed any more.
‘You didn’t deserve to be kicked out the way you were,’ Messi wrote on Instagram in September as he took aim at the Barcelona board. ‘But the truth is that at this point, nothing surprises me.’
Suarez went on to achieve great things at Barcelona after joining from Liverpool in 2014
Before he joined Atletico, Suarez looked bound for Juventus and took an Italian language exam in the city of Perugia to have a chance of gaining Italian citizenship — meaning he would not have counted as an overseas player had he joined a Serie A club.
Police are investigating ‘irregularities’ in the exam and the examiner was last month given a one-year suspended jail term for fraud.
Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici is among those under investigation, although the Italian champions ‘strongly reiterate the correctness of Paratici’s work and are confident that the ongoing investigations will help clarify his position within a reasonable time.’
‘No one likes us, we don’t care’ is chanted by Millwall fans but could apply just as well to Suarez’s playing style – and he has not mellowed with age.
In the first leg, he clashed with Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, appearing to pinch the German on the leg as he ushered the ball out of play before the pair squared up and had to be separated.
In many ways, he is a kindred spirit of his new coach, Diego Simeone – another controversial, uncompromising figure who will do whatever is required to win.
‘Suarez had a desire to show that he is still relevant,’ said Simeone.
Suarez brings that ruthless nature to training sessions, too. Conor Coady was on the fringes of the first team during Suarez’s time at Liverpool and remembers his relentless approach.
‘He would turn me inside out a few times — I say a few times, probably all the time,’ said the Wolves captain.
Suarez clashed with Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger after appearing to pinch the German on the leg
‘He was just non-stop. If there had been a game the previous day, the lads who’d played would do recovery and the rest of us would train — Suarez would still train with us. Other players were doing lighter work but he would do a full session.
‘That mentality was absolutely incredible. He was playing for Uruguay, playing in the Premier League for Liverpool, scoring week in, week out, but he still wanted to train every single day.’
Suarez is said to have cried when he left Barcelona but he will be doing his utmost to ensure that the only tears on Wednesday are shed by the Chelsea players and supporters.
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