Luis Suarez’s career at Ajax symbolised the Amsterdam side’s decline. Despite the Uruguayan striker scoring 109 goals at the Dutch giants in only three and a half seasons, he exited the Amsterdam ArenA with just a single piece of silverware to show for his efforts – the 2010 Dutch Cup. Suarez was always loyal to the Eredivisie club though. He never forced a transfer, and equally did not complain when transfer talk failed to turn into something more substantial.
“I will leave Ajax only for a bid that cannot be refused”, Suarez had said. And that he did. Liverpool’s €26.5 offer was one that could not be turned down in the corridors of power at Ajax. The sale of Suarez was the club’s second best deal of recent times, after Wesley Sneijder’s move to Real Madrid for €27M in 2007.
Since Suarez made his professional debut in the Uruguayan Primera Division on 27th August, 2005, in a game between Nacional Montevideo and Cerro Porteno, he has always finished his campaigns with a double digit tally of goals to his name. The Uruguayan has headed to Liverpool at the age of just 23, and already with 149 goals in all competitions to show for a career which has simply accelerated from one stage to the next; from Nacional Montevideo to Groningen, to Ajax, all while excelling with Uruguay too.
Scoring goals though is not Suarez’s only talent. In Holland the forward developed into an attacking all-rounder, able to be deployed and feeling comfortable in a range of positions: the man up front in a 4-5-1 formation, a right winger in a 4-3-3 set-up, and as a support striker in a 4-4-2. The Uruguayan’s vision and ability to pick a pass stands alongside his cold-blooded composure in front of goal – 56 assists in three and a half seasons of Eredivisie football is testament to that.
Suarez was born on 24th January, 1987, in Salto, a Uruguayan town close to the Argentine border. His parents soon split up and the seven-year-old was on his way to Montevideo to live with his grandmother. There he went through hard times: “When I was eleven”, Suarez remembered, “I was selected for a training camp with the Uruguayan youth team in La Plata, Argentina. All my dreams came true. Unfortunately, it was too expensive, so I had to decline because I didn’t even have enough money to buy a pair of shoes.”
The youngster from Salto learned to play football on the streets, joining small local clubs (FC Urreta, Deportivo Sporting Antigas) until he got his chance with Nacional Montevideo’s youth team. In the 2005/06 season, Suarez helped the senior side to win the national title, chipping in with ten goals. The waves the forward was making did not go unnoticed, with Dutch side Groningen the quickest amongst a raft of European clubs to buy the player. The Euroborg outfit pounced after an enthusiastic report compiled by one of their scouts, who happened to be in Montevideo scouting several other players.
At the northern Dutch club Suarez had a big impact almost at once. He scored on his debut in Europe against Partizan Belgrade and it took just two months for the Uruguayan to become a regular in the Green-Whites’ starting eleven, where he struck up a fruitful partnership with former Manchester United striker Erik Nevland.
Homesickness, so often the scourge of the South American player, did not seem to be a problem for Suarez, who settled perfectly in Groningen, both on and off the pitch – the presence of countryman Bruno Silva also helped. Suarez tried to speak Dutch from his very first interviews and was equally fearless on the pitch, taking off tough defender Jaap Stam with relish. He liked to joke too: “One of my idols is Ronaldo, but when I am thirty I hope not to be that fat.”
With Groningen, Suarez scored 12 goals – ten in the Eredivisie – and then joined Ajax. The deal was not an easy one for the Amsterdam side, who found themselves looking for a replacement for Ryan Babel, who had headed to Liverpool. Groningen turned down Ajax’s initial €3.5M bid. Suarez himself appealed to the Dutch Football Association’s arbitration committee, but lost his case. The committee argued that in recent times Ajax’s performance was not that much better than Groningen’s. It looked like the Uruguayan would be staying at the Euroborg, but the same day the verdict was handed down both clubs announced a deal had been struck for €8M.
In Amsterdam Suarez proved he was worth every cent of the €8M. The forward was the Eredivisie’s top scorer in the 2009/10 campaign, finding the back of the net 35 times in 33 games, in the process becoming the joint-highest scoring foreign player in a single Eredivisie season ever, equalling Mateja Kezman. It was therefore little surprise when Suarez was awarded the Dutch Footballer of the Year accolade. In the same season, Suarez notched eight goals in the Dutch Cup and six in the Europa League. On 23rd December, 2009, the prolific goal-getter scored six goals in a single match against amateur team WHC Wezep in the Dutch Cup, helping Ajax to a 14-1 win, the club’s best ever in the domestic cup. Suarez leaves Ajax as their fifth ever top scorer – the first amongst the foreign contingent – on average: 109 goals in 152 games equals one goal for every 139 minutes on the pitch. Only Marco van Basten, Ruud Geels, Cees Groot and Johan Cryuff could do better.
Suarez’s Achilles heel is bad temper on the pitch. The 23-year-old was sent off on his debut for Uruguay, after receiving two yellow cards. Since his first Eredivisie outing, Suarez has never been far from a wave of criticism due to the large number of yellows dished out to the fiery forward, most coming for diving or protesting decisions. In 2009/10, Suarez picked up the ignominious title of second most yellow carded player in the Eredivisie after Utrecht full back Mihai Nesu. Moreover, last November he was fined by the Dutch FA (KNVB) after he bit PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal between his neck and his shoulder. The “Cannibal of Ajax” as Dutch daily De Telegraaf labelled him, was suspended for seven league games as the KNVB considered his poor behaviour “habitual” after another red card received in the Dutch Supercup final at the start of the season.
Liverpool’s new striker hit the international stage for the first time at the 2007 Under-20 FIFA World Cup in Canada. At that time, Suarez had already picked up his first cap proper with Uruguay in a 3-1 win over Colombia on 8th February, 2007. Now the forward is counted as a key member of La Celeste, scoring a hat-trick last October against Indonesia that took him to 16 goals in 37 games for his country. Suarez was also a driving force behind Uruguay’s run to the semi-final and an eventual fourth place finish at the 2010 World Cup.
In South Africa, Suarez formed a lethal striking partnership with team-mate Diego Forlan, scoring three goals in six games. In the Round of 16, Suarez struck a delightfully powerful drive against South Korea, part of a brace which put Uruguay through to the quarter-finals for the first time since 1970. In the quarter-final itself Suarez was voted Man of the Match, despite failing to find the back of the net. However, he played a vital role in the last minute of extra-time against Ghana, handling the ball on the line and then celebrating when Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty. Uruguay went on to win the penalty shoot-out.
During the winter transfer window, Liverpool had the option to try and field the Suarez-Forlan partnership at club level, however the Reds preferred to buy the younger, less experienced, but more expensive Andy Carroll from Newcastle United instead. With Forlan having been available at Atletico Madrid, only time will tell if the Anfield side have made the right choice. Suarez though, seems set for a big future in the Premier League, with or without his international team-mate.
Fonte: Inside Futbol