Last week, Luis Suarez featured in La Liga for the first time in a jersey other than FC Barcelona’s. The Catalans had decided to offload one of their most prolific strikers to reduce financial strains following a disastrous 2019-20 season as the Uruguayan international went to title contenders Atletico Madrid.
With most Barcelona fans growing frustrated with Suarez’s underwhelming displays over the last three seasons, the Uruguayan international’s departure didn’t spark debate. However, Lionel Messi’s dissatisfaction following Suarez’s departure hints at a wrong move from Barcelona.
Suarez left Barcelona as their third-highest goalscorer in history, scoring a whopping 198 goals over six seasons and winning 13 trophies in the process. Here is a look at five such occasions when Suarez was the best player on the pitch.
LUIS SUAREZ vs DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA | LA LIGA 2015-16
Luis Suarez’s second season with Barcelona was perhaps his best football stint at any club. After gradually acclimatizing himself with Barcelona’s playing style in his first season, Suarez was at his scoring best in 2015-16, where he had bested both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to become the top scorer in Europe’s top five leagues.
La Liga side Deportivo la Coruna was one such unfortunate opponent. Barcelona had come to the match at the back of three consecutive losses against Valencia, Real Sociedad and Real Madrid, which had jolted their title hopes. Suarez was having a temporary dry spell as well, in a season where he was averaging 1.14 goals every 90 minutes, and the South American needed a release to regain his momentum.
Suarez would go on to score four goals and provide three assists in this single game as Barcelona demolished Deportivo la Coruna 8-0 at home.
LUIS SUAREZ vs ATLETICO MADRID | LA LIGA 2018-19
Barcelona were the absolute favourites to win the 2018-19 season after they had lost just two matches in the first three-quarters of the season. With Real Madrid falling off the grid following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and Zinedine Zidane stepping down, Lionel Messi and Co. were having a smooth run when they had to face Atletico Madrid.
Diego Simeone’s defensive tactics and physical gameplay was expected to make life extremely difficult for Barcelona against the Roja Blancos. Though eight points separated the two teams, Diego Simeone was hoping against hope to catch up with Barcelona with seven matches remaining following their Nou Camp clash.
A win or a draw could have kept Atletico Madrid in the title race for long and Atletico Madrid, having the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Jan Oblak, Rodri and more, almost achieved it by keeping Barcelona quiet for 85 minutes. Their stronghold was broken with an exquisite Suarez strike from outside the box, which led to Barcelona’s 2-0 win. It was widely considered to be the title-deciding result that season.
LUIS SUAREZ vs JUVENTUS | UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL 2014-15
Suarez had arrived in Barcelona in the summer of 2014 after the Spanish giants had shelled out €82.3 million to make the South American international the most expensive players of that time. His previous season with Liverpool, where Suarez scored 33 goals and provided 17 assists to win his first European Gold Shoe, had made him a lucrative target.
The fact that Barcelona had made the move despite knowing that Suarez would be suspended for the first eight league games only points out how uncompromising they were about his talent. Suarez had taken eight matches to get his first goal for Barcelona that season, but once he had started finding the net there was no stopping him. He would form the spearhead of the MSN (Messi, Suarez and Neymar) trident that went on to score 122 goals that season.
Suarez had scored 25 goals and assisted 20 times in his first Barcelona season, but his most important goal had come against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League final. Suarez had scored six goals and assisted thrice in Barcelona’s run-up to the UCL final. Apart from his goal-scoring abilities, Suarez had impressed all with his off the ball work and the UCL final was all about that. Though Suarez scored the second goal on the 68th minute to give Barca a 2-1 lead, his selflessness was the highlight of that game.
LUIS SUAREZ vs PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN | UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2016-17
The UEFA Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain, which will forever be etched in memories of every Barcelona fan for the rest of eternity, had Suarez playing an important cog in their wheel. His relentless run at PSG defenders had given way to numerous defensive mistakes by the French giants.
Not only had Suarez opened the scoring in the third minute, which had further cushioned Barcelona’s task ahead, but he had also managed an assist for Neymar that took Barcelona’s scoreline to 4-1. Though it was Neymar who would go on to become the hero for Barcelona before moving to PSG the very next season, Suarez’s role in that second leg remained underrated and unappreciated.
LUIS SUAREZ vs REAL MADRID | LA LIGA 2017-18
Both the Real Madrid managers, Rafa Benitez and Julen Lopetegui had fallen in Suarez’s firing line during his stint with Barcelona and the Uruguayan striker had a knack of coming up with his best performance against the arch-rivals. Suarez has faced Real Madrid 16 times across all competitions so far, managing to score 11 goals and providing five assists.
While the capital giants always found it difficult to handle Barcelona’s famed attacking trio, Suarez had ensured that Barcelona remained a dangerous proposition to the rivals even after Neymar and Andres Iniesta had left the club. Suarez’s beautiful solo abilities were at display in October 2018 when Real visited Nou Camp for yet another El Clasico.
Lionel Messi was missing with an injury and fans were expecting their £135.5M new import Ousmane Dembele and £142M Phillipe Coutinho to spark the magic on the huge stage. But, it was Suarez’s hat-trick that led the Catalans to a domineering 5-1 win over Real Madrid.
While Suarez’s ability to find the net with utmost sharpness was never a doubt, his third goal of the night – where he dinked the ball over Thibaut Courtois – was met with ecstasy across the stands. Barring Messi, Suarez had become the first Barcelona player to score a hat-trick in El Clasico in La Liga since Romario in 1994.
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