Luis Suarez arrived at Barcelona as the world’s hottest striker, formed a deadly trident with Lionel Messi and Neymar and won the lot… but now the club’s third-highest scorer EVER is set for Juventus after a humiliating end to his amazing Nou Camp spell
- Luis Suarez signed for Barcelona in 2014 after a stunning season at Liverpool
- The Uruguayan was banned early on after a biting incident at the World Cup
- Yet his first season at the Nou Camp concluded with a memorable Treble in 2015
- Suarez formed a formidable partnership with Lionel Messi and Neymar up front
- But last season was his least prolific yet as he missed months due to a knee injury
In 2014, amid much clamour and controversy following another biting incident at the World Cup, Luis Suarez joined Barcelona from Liverpool.
Six years, 13 trophies and 198 goals later, the Uruguayan’s spell at the Nou Camp is all but over. The 33-year-old is not part of new manager Ronald Koeman’s plans and looks set to sign for Juventus in the coming days.
But just how did Barcelona’s third-highest goalscorer of all time suddenly find himself on the scrapheap in Catalonia? Is Suarez’s departure just a consequence of a freshening up of the first-team squad at Barcelona, following the European humiliation against Bayern Munich?
Luis Suarez has won 13 trophies during six successful years leading the line at Barcelona
Yet Suarez is not in Ronald Koeman’s plans at the Nou Camp and looks set to join Juventus
And what part has the Lionel Messi saga played in Suarez’s future too, given their close friendship?
Well, no matter what noise Suarez’s departure makes, it certainly won’t match the level of attention his £75m signing brought, following his stunning 2013-14 season at Anfield.
To be blunt, Suarez joined Barca in disgrace. Reeling after biting Giorgio Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup, Suarez was banned for a total of four months and could not even enter any stadium as a spectator during that period.
La Liga: 2014–15, 2015–16, 2017–18, 2018–19
Copa del Rey: 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18
UEFA Champions League: 2014–15
Supercopa de Espana: 2016, 2018
UEFA Super Cup: 2015
FIFA Club World Cup: 2015
His late-October debut, against Real Madrid in El Clasico, ended in defeat at the Bernabeu, though he did notch an assist in the opening four minutes, setting up strike partner Neymar.
In fact, the pair alongside Messi formed a formidable trident, dubbed ‘MSN’, in Suarez’s first season at the Nou Camp, as Barca stormed to a memorable treble under Luis Enrique.
The culmination was victory in the 2015 Champions League final, in which Suarez scored, against Juventus. Ironically, the team Suarez seems set to join – and a club which has not landed Europe’s greatest prize since 1996.
But for a debut season which started in turmoil, it was essentially perfect. However, those highest of highs were never quite matched again.
Barca continued to dominate in Spain, however. In his first four years, Suarez won the Copa del Rey four times. In his first five years too, Suarez won four La Liga titles, with 2017 being the only year Real Madrid pipped them.
Individually too, Suarez’s consistency in front of goal made him one of the most valuable assets in European football.
In his second season, he scored an astonishing 59 goals in 53 appearances in all competitions. Turning 29 in 2016, this was Luis Suarez at his absolute peak.
However, Champions League disappointment in the past few seasons have overshadowed a period in which Barca have had the most star-studded list of footballers in world football.
Suarez formed a formidable trio in attack, dubbed ‘MSN’, alongside Neymar and Lionel Messi
The Uruguayan won the Champions League in his first season, which ended in the treble
Whilst rivals Real Madrid won three straight Champions Leagues from 2016, Barca fell in the knockout stages.
Atletico Madrid and Juventus – despite Barca previously beating PSG after a sensational late comeback from four goals down – got the better of them in those first two years, while 2018 and 2019 will certainly be ‘what might have been’ for Suarez and Co.
Three goals up against Roma in the 2018 quarter-finals, Barca let that handsome lead slip on a night to forget at the Stadio Olimpico, in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Yet a year later, back at Anfield against former club Liverpool, it was a case of deja vu. A 3-0 lead was gone in a flash, Liverpool scored four and Barca were sent crushing out,when a final in their homeland – in Madrid no less – beckoned.
Suarez endured crushing European disappointments during his latter years at Barcelona
And despite his consistency of goals – he is, after all, the club’s third highest scorer with 198 goals in just six years at the club – the figures show that year-by-year, Suarez’s proficiency has dwindled.
That breathtaking second season was never matched. 37 goals the season after was followed by 31, then 25. Last season, the first in which Suarez did not win any silverware at Barcelona, he scored just 21 times.
In theory, those annual numbers are still impressive. There was no shortage of wonder-strikes too, with overhead kicks against Sevilla and a cheeky back-heel goal against Mallorca in December particularly memorable.
But the overall numbers do show a decline and now, at 33 and off the back of a season to forget for the club, Koeman clearly thinks Suarez’s time is up.
Last year, Suarez had problems with fitness for essentially the first time in his career. A knee injury picked up in the Spanish Super Cup in January against Atletico Madrid meant the Uruguayan should have missed the majority of the season.
Suarez had problems with his knee last season and missed over two months of action
However, the delay to the season caused by the coronavirus pandemic gave Suarez a reprieve, yet he was uninfluential as Barca let their lead at the top of LaLiga slip.
Indeed, Suarez scored just five goals in 11 LaLiga games post-lockdown and what looks set to be his final goal for the club against Bayern came on an evening which would best be forgotten. One of the worst nights in the club’s history.
The wrath of the fans and the boardroom was always going to be tasty after such a humiliation against a fellow European giant. Quique Setien was unsurprisingly sacked, and ex-Barca player Koeman has wasted no time in cracking the whip.
The Dutchman reportedly told Suarez that he was not in his plans next season in a brief 60-second phone call, leaving the 33-year-old fuming. A day later, close friend Messi asked to leave the club via burofax.
Suarez looks set to leave Barca after six years of success, with a move to Juventus looming
The 33-year-old’s departure comes after Koeman told him he was not part of his plans
In a time of upheaval at Barcelona involving the potential departure of their greatest ever player, Suarez’s departure may be something of a sideshow. But it’s still incredibly significant.
The man who led the line with such prowess, determination and craft looks set to head for pastures new – alongside Cristiano Ronaldo – in Turin. A fresh challenge in Serie A is certainly not a step down, particularly at the age of 33.
Yet alongside Messi, his absence will undoubtedly be sorely felt at Barcelona. The end of an era? Most definitely.
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