No one will ever feel bad for Luis Suárez. We’ve seen him try to eat several opponents (though it did lead to one of the best terrace songs of all-time, “He cheats! He dives! He likes his snacks alive!”) Even more seriously, he was suspended for racially abusing Patrice Evra, an event that, had it happened today instead of 2013, might have ended his big-club career then and there (though unlikely). Even if you somehow get past all that, and it would be nearly impossible to, unless he’s playing for your team he’s an insufferable pain in the ass as he’s always bitching, moaning, annoying, diving, poking, and running.
He’s also one of the greatest strikers of his generation. Five different clubs, three leagues, 472 games and 327 goals. He nearly won the Premier League by himself in 2013-2014 with Liverpool. He helped form possibly the most terrifying frontline in the sport’s history with Barcelona and Neymar and Leo Messi, scoring 40 goals and assisting 16 in 2015-2016. There was also firing Uruguay to a World Cup semi-final in 2010 and a Copa América triumph in 2011. Only Messi and Christiano Ronaldo can look down at his resume.
Which didn’t stop him from being scapegoated by Barcelona after last season, when they tossed away the league title to blood rival Real Madrid, Leo Messi made it clear he’d had enough, and the hierarchy had been spreading rumors and insults about their own players on social media. They were an utter mess, and as is customary in these situations, all those who created the mess were desperate to toss the blame at someone else’s feet. Ronald Koeman’s first act after being hired as manager was an attempt to bus-toss Suárez before he’d even unpacked the boxes in his office. At 33, Suárez certainly wasn’t what he was, but he also still managed 16 goals and eight assists in 28 appearances for Barça. That was good enough or second in both categories to Messi. It wasn’t like he was just a gurgling sound when on the field.
But out he went to Atlético Madrid, and he fired them to the La Liga title over Barcelona yesterday. And no one on Barça matched his goal or assist totals from last year either. Keen roster construction there in Catalunya, you’d have to say.
Suárez started the season on a revenge tour, but then again he’s always played like he’s on a revenge tour. That’s what makes him so hard to play against, constantly on your shoulder or in your ear or dusting your ass. It’s also what has led him to cross the line so many times. He’s just inches away at any moment from being unhinged, as if in a constant fight with the world.
Suárez potted nine goals in Atlético’s’s first 12 games, firing them to the top of the league as Barça and Madrid were still coming to terms with pandemic soccer. It was a spot Atlético would never fall out of. A stretch of seven goals in four games in February saw Atlético seven points clear at the top, capping off a 10-1-1 stretch.
But Suárez went cold, and so did Atlético. He would only score three goals in his next 12 games, They would only win three of their next seven, and four of their next nine matches to give both Madrid and Barça a glimpse at the top. Fortunately for the Rojiblancos, both their foes had covered their hands in Crisco and quickly slipped off the ledge whenever they had a chance to climb into first.
When the chips were down, and Atlético couldn’t afford to stumble and trip and puke up points anymore, Suárez saved them. He scored the winner last week as Atlético came back from a goal down in the last 10 minutes to beat Osasuna. And after falling behind again yesterday in the decider to Valladolid, Suárez once again netted the winner. Even at 34, seeing Suárez break through to go one-on-one is pretty much automatic. Those two goals clinched the title, while Barcelona finished up the track.
Barçadecided that Suárez was too old for where they wanted to go, as of yet a still undetermined direction or place. They didn’t think he could play with Messi anymore. But they didn’t bother to find anyone else who could do it better than Suárez, while Suárez was busy charging Atlético right past them. Luis Suárez got the revenge he’s always after.