It’s been a long time since anybody at Barça came close to replicating Messi’s contribution purely in terms of goals and assists. Even on an European level, only Cristiano Ronaldo competed against Messi and it seemed it would be forever before anybody came to gatecrash their party. And in came Luis Suárez.
Born in Uruguay where he is popularly known as Lusito, Suarez came to Barcelona after his much publicised “biting incident” on Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. This led to the end of his Liverpool career and Barça were quick to pounce on this opportunity but it cost them a staggering €82 million.
Nobody could have anticipated the kind of impact the Uruguayan would have made on the Catalan side. His talent was there for all to see but he exceeded all expectations becoming one of the most important Barcelona players.
His first season started at a slow pace due to his four month long ban. He also supposedly had to shed a few kilos to stay match fit. But his dedication and constant harrowing of defenders from the very beginning was a sign of things to come.
And the present season brought out a much hungrier Suarez, who would go on to win both the Pichichi and European Golden Shoe — the first man since Diego Forlan to have won the award who is not named Messi or Ronaldo.
But the 40 goals he scored in La Liga bailed out the team on numerous occasions and was easily the MVP of the league season perhaps due to Messi’s deployment in the middle of the park which resulted in lesser goals for the Argentine or perhaps due to the sheer amount of hard work and his perseverance.
And to cap it off, he has 58 goals this season and needs two more to record the second most goals scored in a season for the Blaugrana. Although it is quite early to predict something of this nature, but it looks like Messi and Ronaldo’s monopoly on the Ballon d’Or might be really tested in 2016.
Suarez’s contribution to the team’s success cannot be just measured on the basis of goals or assists. He is much more than that. Not since the days of Samuel Eto’o has Barça such a physical striker who pushes and shoves taller centre-backs which unfortunately players like Messi and Neymar aren’t able to do inspite of their obviously superior skill-set. Also he provides a presence in the box during corners and free-kicks and has a great work-rate — a gem of a player to have in your team.
Taking his past actions into account, it can be said that Suarez has been pretty well behaved. He has learnt to channel all his anger and frustration towards working even harder and the results are there for all to see.
The way he draws out defenders opens up spaces for players like Neymar and Iniesta to operate upon and weave their magic. It is no coincidence that the team has a cumulative scoreline of 24-0 in the last 5 matches. With Suárez expected to score goals on a daily basis, Messi continues to dazzle and astound us from an attacking midfield position thereby easing Messi’s transition to his newer role.
Still just 29, he has atleast a couple of seasons left in him as a top class striker. Barça must at all cost keep hold of front trio MSN and it is with him and Messi that Barça can start dreaming of another treble.
And Uruguay look a much dangerous side with Lusito back for the Copa America Cenetario. Even as Argentina will always be the favourites as ever, an inconsistent Albaceleste managed by Tata Martino might find tough competition from Suárez led Uruguay. A beautiful summer of football awaits all fans with Euro and Copa America coming up. And a good performance from Suárez might just be enough to edge out Messi and Ronaldo this calendar year for the prestigious Ballon d’Or something he so richly deserves for his efforts.