Where to even begin with Luis Suárez. One of European football’s most controversial players in recent years, blessed with a jaw-dropping aptitude for his preferred sport. Week-in week-out the Uruguayan talisman consistently has football fans all over the globe raving or raging about him, whether it be about his latest goal (which are usually top-drawer) or his most recent ‘dive’. Adored and idolised by the Anfield faithful, loathed and despised by almost everyone else, Suárez most certainly has his critics. He is a particularly outspoken individual, who will not hold anything back. If his mind is already made up, there is no convincing him otherwise. If he feels something needs to be said, he’ll be the first one to say it. Sort of reminiscent of Manchester United legend Roy Keane, he is an outspoken individual. Although he may be subject to relentless abuse from opposing fans, Suárez somehow musters up the willpower and strength to keep his chin up ,which is something that has to be admired. Never have I seen a player who could split opinions so easily, and his antics being the epicentre of most Liverpool-related arguments. He is a player who everyone would love to have in their team, but hate him if otherwise. But enough about Luis Suárez’ character, let’s move onto his attributes and ability as a player.
When the Ajax striker dubbed ‘El Pistolero’ signed for Liverpool in the January transfer window 2011, it was a signal of intent from Kenny Dalglish. He wanted to move the club forward, and what better way to do so than to sign one of the Dutch giants’ most prolific strikers in recent years. In the season 2009/2010 Suárez managed to rack up an astounding 49 goals in 48 games for Ajax. Decent? Suppose so. Messi-esque, Ronaldo-esque? Yes, yes it is. Although you do need to take into account the fact that the Eredivisie is nowhere near as competitive or difficult as the Premier League or Liga BBVA. He has always been known for his silky-smooth dribbling skills, and he often goes by players for fun. At times he can lack clinical finishing, but he more than makes up for it in his passion and desire for the game. Suárez got off to a dream start with Liverpool, netting in his first game for Liverpool against Stoke City after coming on as a substitute. From that day on, I don’t think that anyone knew just how crucial a player he would become for us. During the rest of the 2010/2011 season, Luis Suárez provided a charismatic spark for Liverpool, chipping in with 4 goals and 5 assists in 13 league appearances. Not bad for a player who had not played for the best part of a month, due to serving a 7 match ban for biting an opposition player in the Dutch League. Liverpool knew what they were getting when they bought the former Dutch player of the year for a fee of £22.8 million. A player with a lot of baggage. A player who was no stranger to controversy, often found at the centre of it. But he was also a player with serious potential, the potential to be one of the Premier League’s most feared strikers. The Uruguayan international has more than justified and repaid the hefty price tag that loomed over his head, both on and off the pitch.
The season of 2011/2012 held a lot of promise for Suárez, and most Liverpool fans were convinced that he would help steer our team towards a trophy of some sort, and he did just that, sometimes almost single-handedly. The first game of the season was at home to Sunderland. What seemed a straight-forward task at first glance, proved to be the story of our season. Luis Suárez missed an early penalty, but quickly made up for his mistake just minutes later. The first goal came after 12 minutes when Scottish playmaker Charlie Adam whipped in a peach of a free-kick. It found the head of none other than Luis Suarez, and we were off to a flyer. Or so we thought. Liverpool dominated large portions of the game, but just could not land the killer blow. Missed chances came back to haunt us, and we were punished for not wrapping the game up earlier when Seb Larsson scored a majestic scissors kick from a sublime cross via Ahmed Elmohamady. Games such as these have typified Liverpool FC over the last couple of years, dominating and then losing. You would think it’s our motto. Although Liverpool generally performed poorly in the league, they managed to find some sort of form in the Cups. We managed to win the Carling Cup, with many dazzling performances from Suárez along the way, while we also crashed out of the FA Cup final to Chelsea, a game where Andy Carroll tore The Pensioners to shreds for half an hour. Suárez may have led us to our first trohy since 2006, but a one man army is inevitably going to lose. But there was an event that had overshadowed the 2011/2012 season. The Suárez/Evra race row.
From the first minute of the highly anticipated clash between Liverpool and Manchester United, Suárez and Evra were in each others’ faces. Words were being exchanged, and strong, but not necessarily illegal, tackles were being made. In the 63th minute of the game, Evra and Suárez were having a little bit of a strop in the penalty area while awaiting a corner kick. Expletives were flying about, and the discrepancy escalated to such a point where the referee had to intervene. Both players had cooled down, but the damage was already done. Manchester United reported an incident of racial abuse to the referee after the game. Suárez was later found guilty of ‘using racist language’ towards Patrice Evra. The South American talisman was banned for 8 games and subsequently fined £80,000 by The FA. But the FA never had any conclusive proof to back up their sanctioning of the punishment handed to the Uruguayan. All they had was ‘reason to believe’. Later on in the season, Chelsea’s John Terry was found guilty of the same crime and was dealt a much less significant fine of £120,000 and a 4 match ban. Why did Terry receive half the punishment of the Liverpool hit man? Because he was British. Simple as. This incident left a dark cloud over Liverpool Football Club, and their supporters were left feeling hard done by. Without Suárez, Liverpool looked like a group of children who had lost their father in an amusements park. Unfortunately, that amusements park was Anfield.
Suárez came back from suspension just in time for Liverpool’s game against – guess who – Manchester United. The stage was set for Suárez and Evra on this day. It was more about those two rather than the actual result. Suárez managed to grab himself a goal, but it was worthless. United ran out the victors 2-1. Liverpool finished the season 8th, their lowest finish since 1994. Luis Suárez bagged 17 goals in all competitions that season. A respectable figure, considering he endured a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to his suspension. The re-introduction of El Pistolero gave Liverpool a lift, but he could not impact the side enough to help them finish any higher than 8th. Suárez finished the season as one of the Premier League’s most talked about players, but for all the wrong reasons. The little magician finished his season with a bang, scoring a majestic hat-trick at Carrow Road in April, single-handedly pulverizing Norwich in the process. Since the beginning of the 2012/2013 season, Suárez has been a man on a mission. With 13 goals to his name in only 19 appearances , he is in the form of his life. There has been much speculation about his future at the Merseyside club, but Suárez constantly assures us fans that he is not going anywhere. He was the first player in the Premier League to reach 10 goals, only 1 goal below his total tally in the league campaign last season. A solid improvement. In my most humblest of opinions, I feel that the Uruguay international is fast becoming a Merseyside, and Premier League legend, whose name will echo through the Kop for years to come. He’s already done it for previous clubs and his country, with 30 goals in 60 games for Uruguay. Why not continue on with his legacy in England. The unpredictable striker has finally been recognised as one of the world’s elite, being ranked 9th by Match Of The Day’s top 100 players list. That wouldn’t look too shabby an accolade to boast on your CV now, would it?