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|Birthday||January 24, 1987|
It would be fair to say that 2010 was the year that launched Luis Suarez into world superstardom, as well as global infamy. In fact, the year perfectly encapsulated the mix of attacking excellence and controversy that makes up one of Europe’s most talked-about forwards.
After finishing the 2009-10 season with a remarkable tally of 49 goals in 48 games in all competitions for Ajax, winning the Dutch Cup in the process, Suarez travelled to South Africa to contest the World Cup finals with Uruguay. In the quarter-finals against Ghana, Suarez blocked a goal-bound effort in the final minute of extra-time, earning a red card and conceding a penalty in the process. However, Asamoah Gyan missed from 12 yards and Uruguay prevailed in the subsequent shoot-out, leading Suarez to be castigated by many for his dastardly role in the elimination of Africa’s final competitors.
His magnetic attraction to negative PR was displayed once again in November 2010 when he was banned for seven games for biting PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal. However, that incident should not cloud what was a wildly successful career in the Eredivisie following his move from Nacional in 2006, when he left the Uruguayan club having won the league in his debut season in the first team.
It was Groningen who brought him to the Netherlands for around €800,000 and after scoring ten goals in 29 games in his first season in the country, Ajax paid €7.5 million to take him to Amsterdam. Prior to the start of the 2010-11 season he had repaid them handsomely with 74 goals in 97 league appearances, leading to speculation regarding a move to one of Europe’s bigger clubs, and specifically Liverpool; a club he eventually agreed to join in the 2011 January transfer window.
Suarez made an immediate impact at Liverpool, scoring on his Premier League debut against Stoke and endearing himself to the Anfield faithful thanks to his energy on the pitch. Hopes were high for his first full season after he was named the 2011 Copa America’s Best Player as Uruguay won the tournament but, despite netting a respectable 17 goals in all competitions, his scoring form was marked by a propensity to hit the post rather than prolificness in 2012-13. A superb hat-trick against Norwich was perhaps his most positive contribution, while his most negative was unquestionably the eight-match ban he received for using racist language towards Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. The suspension served to increase speculation about the striker’s future but he signed a new contract with the Reds in August 2012 shortly after appearing for Uruguay at the London Olympics.
Strengths: Technically excellent and full of running, this deadly striker is a threat from long range, in the box or in the air. He is also versatile and likes to attack from wide positions, making him an elusive presence.
Weaknesses: Disciplinary issues have frequently threatened to undermine Suarez and biting aside, he has shown a worrying propensity to pick up yellow cards.
Career high: A contentious choice, perhaps, but Suarez made himself into a national hero when handballing to deny Ghana a last-gasp goal in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final. Though he became an international villain, Suarez was carried on the shoulders of his team-mates after their subsequent shoot-out victory in Johannesburg.
Career low: Controversy never seems to be far from Suarez and his low point is a tie between the seven-game ban he received in November 2010 for biting Otman Bakkal on the shoulder while in action for Ajax and his eight-match ban for the incident with Evra in December 2011.
Style: Evasive, clever, deadly. A prolific forward.
Quotes: “The ‘Hand Of God’ now belongs to me. I did it so that my team-mates could win the penalty shoot-out. When I saw Gyan miss the penalty it was a great joy”. Luis Suarez, July 2010.
Trivia: Suarez left his home town of Salto at the age of only 11 when moving around 500km to join the ranks of Montevideo-based club Nacional.