Barcelona striker Luis Suarez returns to England a different player

Luis Suarez’s last appearance in England was during Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Newcastle at Anfield, as the Premier League title race with Manchester City went down to the final day of the season.

City would go on to be crowned champions of England after defeating West Ham United 2-0 at the Etihad, while Liverpool and Suarez were left to rue the mistakes that had cost them their first league title in 14 years.

Despite his failure to help guide the Merseyside club to league glory, Suarez was named Player of the Year by the Premier League, PFA and the Football Association Writers. The Uruguayan striker scored 31 goals in 33 games for Liverpool while helping to secure the club’s return to Champions League football this season.

Suarez was undeniably the most-feared option in manager Brendan Rodgers’ arsenal and was the focal point of Liverpool’s attack. If he wasn’t scoring goals, he was creating chances and simply making life easier for his teammates with his presence on the pitch. The striker’s movement, runs and passing were the catalyst of Liverpool’s scoring thrust.

But Suarez has taken on a different role since leaving Liverpool for Barcelona. The striker has become more of a provider than a scorer since he last touched ground on English soil.

To date, Suarez has only scored seven times in 22 games for Barcelona. But the forward has twelve assists for the Catalan club while steadily familiarizing himself with teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar.

His South American strike partners have had the benefit of a full season and a half of playing together. But the introduction of Suarez into the equation has seen their production increase significantly.

Messi has now scored 37 goals with Neymar tallying an additional 24. This coming a season after the two players struggled to get on the same page while losing the La Liga title on the final day of the season.

Suarez’s introduction to the Barcelona lineup was initially met with mix reviews by fans and the media. But the Uruguayan has slowly endeared himself to club supporters and silenced his critics.

Last week, one Spanish publication – which had criticized the forward earlier in the season – called Suarez the “ideal number 9 or Messi”.

Another indication of his growing popularity came last weekend when manager Luis Enrique elected to start the striker on the bench at home against Levante. When Suarez was brought on in the second half, he received an enormous ovation from supporters – which only grew louder after the forward scored a spectacular overhead volley a few minutes later.

Regardless of his detractors and his lack of goals, Suarez has maintained the support of his new manager and his Barcelona teammates. They see the striker’s movement, ability to bounce off defenders and passing have continually helped create space for Messi and Neymar in Barcelona’s attack.

Luis Enrique has previously stated that Suarez was the ideal signing to play alongside Messi and Neymar because the former-Liverpool striker showed he could share the limelight with Daniel Sturridge while suiting up for Brendan Rodgers’ side. The Uruguay international has always prioritized winning matches for his club in front of any desire for personal glory.

“Since he arrived he has given us a lot more power up front and he opens the space up for other players with his running off the ball,” midfielder Sergio Busquets said.

“We don’t play the way Liverpool play; he is not receiving the final pass as often.”

“Perhaps voices outside the team might say: ‘Luis needs to score more goals [to justify his price tag]’. But I don’t care if he doesn’t score more goals if he keeps working for the team the way he has so far.”

Programming note: Manchester City vs. Barcelona will be shown LIVE today at 2:45pm EST on FOX Sports 1 and FoxSoccer2Go.

 

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