Luis Suarez: Legend or Villian?

Luis Alberto Dias Suarez or Luis Suarez as he is better known, is without doubt a player who draws attention. Sometimes the attention is negative and at times positive but there is never a dull moment with the mercurial Uruguyan.

Suarez was born in Salto, Uruguay and moved to the capital city Montevideo at the age of seven with his family. It is in Montevideo that his footballing talents were immediately recognised. Like many South American footballers of repute Suarez was a child prodigy and honed his talents on the streets. He was eventually snapped up by local team Nacional at the age of 14.

In 2009/2010 the attention of the world was first drawn to Suarez (who by then was the Captain of Ajax) when he scored 49 goals in all competitions. In the Eredivisie, the Dutch top division, Suarez had cut a niche for himself. He entertained the fans week in week out and scored some outstanding goals.

It was his performances in the Netherlands that resulted in a mad rush for his signature. Liverpool FC beat other suitors to the chase and finally landed the promising youngster when their offer of 22.8 million pounds was accepted by Ajax. It was money well spent. It is estimated that Suarez’s value is now currently in the region of 45-50 million pounds.

Suarez is no doubt a skilled player. It may be argued that he is one of the top 10 strikers in the world and his value to Liverpool football club cannot be understated.

Brendan Rodgers, the current Liverpool FC coach, was categorical, when asked, that Suarez was priceless and would not be sold when rumours surfaced about a possible 50 million pound move by Manchester City in the January transfer window. At the time of writing this article Suarez led the goal scoring charts in the English Premier league with 10 goals in 12 matches.

His importance and influence is not only at club level but he is an influential player at the world stage too. Few can forget the scintillating football exhibited by Suarez at the 2010 World Cup where he helped the Uruguyan to a creditable fourth place finish.

At the 2011 Copa America Suarez scored four goals and helped Uruguay to win the continental trophy for a record fifteenth time. He was named player of the tournament.

In total Suarez has scored 172 goals and has had 60 assists in 298 matches. This is an incredible return by any standards. At Ajax he was one of the very few players to score 100 goals for the club. Others who have managed this feat are footballing greats like Johan Cryuff, Marco Van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp.

He is also known for spectacular finishes (the 50 yard wonder strike against Norwich City one of many examples) and his dazzling skills on the ball are the fodder for enthused analysis by commentators. He currently holds the record of having nutmegged at least one defender in 24 different top flight English teams.

Suarez can use both feet whilst shooting, is good in the air, can play on either wing or as a central striker, is lethal at taking set pieces and has a creative and amazingly astute footballing mind. The superlatives to describe him are endless.

This would have been a fairy story had the tale ended there. Unfortunately for Suarez there is another side to the story.

Suarez has had discipline problems since his early years. At the age of 15 he was red carded for head butting an opponent whilst playing for Nacional. At Nacional Suarez had a difficult time and was constantly at logger heads with the first team coach for his perceived indiscipline and also as a result of his wild party life.

His discipline problems did not end at Nacional. At Gronigen where he moved from after leaving Nacional Suarez was almost inevitably being booked for one infraction or the other. It was at Ajax however that this indiscipline came to focus when he was banned for seven games in 2010 after he bit PSVs Ottman Bakkal on the shoulder. This despicable action earned him the unenviable nickname ‘the Cannibal of Ajax’ a moniker coined by Dutch newspaper ‘De Telegraaf’.

On 15th October 2011 matters came to a head when after a tense match against arch rivals Manchester United Suarez was subsequently charged by the FA of unbecoming conduct and making racist remarks against Manchester United Defender Patrice Evra after an altercation on the field of play.

The manner in which then Liverpool coach Kenny Dalglish and Suarez himself handled the matter drew widespread criticism and outrage. Suarez however denies to date that the words he uttered were uttered in a derogatory manner or had racist connotations and that he was quoted out of context.

He was banned for 8 games and fined 40, 000 pounds as a result of the incident and later Liverpool and shirt sponsor Standard Chartered prevailed upon both player and coach to issue a public apology.

Since then Suarez has been involved in further un-savory incidents. On two separate occasions this season in the same game against Evertonians Kevin Mirallas and Sylvain Distin  he escaped severe punishment after he seemed to deliberately stamp on the two players. Wigan’s Manager Roberto Martinez was incensed on the 17th of November 2012 when Suarez again escaped punishment after he seemed to have stamped on Wigan’s Dave Jones. It is incidents such as this that cast a cloud on his otherwise glittering career.  

Suarez has been accused also of being a ‘diver’ and constantly trying to draw non-existent fouls. There is some merit to this argument although in recent times Suarez has worked on this negative aspect of his game.

On the positive side few know that Suarez is a philanthropist and is currently engaged in charity work. Additionally his Liverpool team mates almost to a man (and his best friend Lucas Leiva in particular) are adamant that Suarez is more often than not misinterpreted and that at heart he is a loving and caring person.

From the promising wonder-kid who was invited to the Uruguyan National youth team  training camp at the tender age of 11 to the 25 year old who now dazzles world audiences every footballing weekend Suarez’s career has metamorphosed positively over the years. He definately has many exciting footballing years ahead of him.

One hopes however that Suarez will shed his bad boy image and Jekyll and Hyde persona and let his football do the talking. That is the only way that he can chisel his name in football folklore and be the legend that his talents fully deserve.

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