Luis Suarez turns 37 today. Villain to some, hero to others, The Uruguay international has divided opinion throughout his decades in the game. The Inter Miami striker is preparing to embark on a new challenge in the MLS now and the headlines will surely follow. For now, let's look back on one of the defining faces of modern football.
At the height of his powers, Suarez was an outstanding number nine who was arguably only behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the third best player in the world.
There was his final season at Liverpool in 2013-14 when he scored 31 goals in 33 Premier League appearances. The Uruguayan was simply unstoppable. The Anfield crowd soaked in every sublime goal, every beautiful piece of skill Suarez showcased in that final year as they knew they were witnessing greatness.
He helped redefine the role of a striker. Suarez wasn’t just there to position himself in the 18-yard box and slot home, he loved to get involved in the build-up play and loved to drive the ball forward, gliding past defenders as though they weren’t even there.
He made it difficult to love him, though. His habit of biting opponents did nothing for his reputation and then of course there was the racism incident towards Patrice Evra. When the summer of 2014 rolled around and Suarez had been given a four-month ban after biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, he appeared to be damaged goods.
For a brief moment it looked like the Uruguayan had ruined his chances of becoming a legend, but as the shared European Golden Shoe recipient in 2013-14, he was destined to play on the biggest stage. Barcelona saw him as a risk worth taking and the rest, as they say, is history.
He was part of La Blaugrana’s formidable MSN front three alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar. This attacking trident was devastating and breathtaking to watch. Of course, Messi and Neymar were the go-to stars for the flair in that attack but Suarez demonstrated on many occasions he was on the same page. He was more than just a goalscorer. There were plenty of similarities between him and the great Marco van Basten. Both were potent in front of goal and could also knock the ball around well to assist their teammates.
Suarez enjoyed his first year in Spain. He helped Barca reclaim the Liga title from Atletico Madrid and provided 16 goals, even having missed the first three months of the campaign. This further highlights just how good he was.
With the ball at his feet, Suarez had you on the edge of your seat. His abilities were heightened when playing in between Messi and Neymar but he really stood out at Liverpool and Ajax because he could make things happen on his own. Truly magical.
He continued to mesmerise in Spain, playing a crucial role at Camp Nou during his six years with the Catalonian giants and helping them to Champions League glory in 2015, scoring against Juventus in the final at Berlin’s Olympiastadion. In 2015-16, his form hit another level as he scored a jaw-dropping 40 goals in 35 La Liga matches, while posting 18 assists as Barcelona claimed their second successive league title. This earned him the prestigious Pichichi Trophy as well as helping him claim his second European Golden Shoe.
Barca had him at his absolute best and, even as he began to age, he continued to show just why he is so revered. After he was pushed out of the Camp Nou door in 2020 by Ronald Koeman, he was taken in by Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid and made sure Barca would regret his departure.
Suarez had an instant impact at the Wanda Metropolitano, firing in 21 goals, the last of his haul being the decisive strike which secured the Colchoneros their first La Liga title in seven years. That accomplishment is precisely why he is so highly regarded around the world as not just one of the greatest strikers of his time but in the history of the beautiful game. How many forwards can have that much of an impact at 34 years of age?
A brief spell with Nacional in his native Uruguay followed before a goal-laden tenure at Gremio in Brazil. But now Suarez takes his talents to Florida, joining up with ex-Barca colleagues Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets. This Blaugrana reboot at Inter Miami has attracted a lot of eyeballs already and the always-intriguing Suarez will bring even more. It might be his final chapter, but don't bet on him going out quietly.