The striker picked up his 100th cap for Uruguay in his team’s laboured win over Saudi Arabia and was on hand to score the winning goal.
Pantomime villain is a term that is associated with many a footballer in the media. It defines players who people love to hate, who get into their opponents’ faces and use every possible trick in the book to their advantage. They are also players who deliver time and again for their teams, despite the circumstances that enable them to do so.
Diego Costa is one such example. But, the man the media love to align in their crosshairs during and after each World Cup campaign is Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez. The 31-year old is easily one of the most talked about and controversial players to have ever played the game. He also doubles up as one of the most tenacious and gifted man to have graced a football field.
The Barcelona forward scored the only goal on his 100th appearance for the national side in a hard-fought win over Saudi Arabia in their Group A match at the FIFA World Cup and ensured his team’s progress into the Round of 16 with a game to spare. He also became the first man to have scored in three different World Cups for his country, a distinction that he will remember for the rest of his life.
Luis Suarez became the first ever Uruguayan to score in three different World Cups
But, neutrals around the world will ask the question. Is Suarez really someone who will be classified as a great? After all, this was the man who racially abused Patrice Evra in a Premier League match. The man who appears to have a very good dentist given the instances of biting against his name right from his Ajax days. The man who saved a sure goal with his hands in the 2010 World Cup to get himself sent off and ensure that the match went to penalties. Can his feats for club and country comsensate for a history of misdemeanours?
The answer appears to be a resounding yes. Suarez’s talents with a football are the only thing he may share with his namesake who like him played for Barcelona where he is still revered as a legend. Suarez has not yet reached the status of legend at any of his clubs, but is still seen as a game-changer.
At each of his last three big clubs, the striker has scored over 50 goals in a century of appearances, which is a phenomenal return. When he is not scoring goals, he is the one who works tirelessly to run the channels for his teammates to exploit. It is no wonder than that he has been part of attacking combinations such as SNS (Daniel Sturridge and Suarez), MSN (Lionel Messi–Neymar-Suarez) and the long-term national team trident of Diego Forlan, Edinson Cavani and himself.
What is more important is that Suarez is a winner. It is where his passion to give it his all on the pitch stems from. Having grown up in a harsh environment back home in Uruguay, the desire to make the most of every minute on a football pitch to win his team the game, has led to him crossing lines and he has been duly punished for it.
His performances on the pitch have translated into trophies for every team that he has played for. He has won the KNVB Cup and Eredivisie with Ajax, won the League Cup with Liverpool, the Champions League, La Liga and the Spanish Cup with Barcelona and also the Copa America with Uruguay.
Clearly, the man has been signed by clubs and continues to play for his country because he is seen as more than just his misdemeanours. He is seen as one that works hard for his team and creates that moment of magic to win the game. That is what justifies his position at the club and national level.
It is not an easy feat to play for your national side 100 times regardless of what age you are at when this feat is achieved. It shows the belief that your team has in your ability. It also shows how much long-standing Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez values his presence in the team.
While his antics are cause to deride Suarez, his exploits on the ball for club and country have to be recognised for what they are, true genius!