Teamwork & herbal tea help Luis Suarez settle at Barcelona
Luis Suarez has managed to score only seven times in 22 games- with four in La Liga- and yet has won over supporters who have looked past the £75m price tag.
Luis Suarez has managed to score only seven times in 22 games- with four in La Liga- and yet has won over supporters who have looked past the £75m price tag and the missed opportunities, and seen the work-rate, the assists and the fact that while the forward might not be flying, the forward-line most definitely is. The greatest demonstration of the Nou Camp learning to love the non-scoring Suarez came two weeks ago in a Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg when he chased down Villarreal defender Mateo Musacchio, robbed him of possession and crossed for Lionel Messi to put Barcelona in front. Supporters chanted the name of the assist-provider and not the goalscorer.
Messi has scored 37 goals and alongside him Neymar has found the net 24 times, but midfielder Sergio Busquets sums up the pro-Suarez feeling in the Barça dressing room when he says: “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.“
His movement across the opposition's defence, bouncing off defenders and showing for passes with his back to goal, has helped clear space for both his strike partners. His runs into right and left channels drag defenders into areas they don't want to occupy and when his markers do not track him, it often ends with crosses that finish up in the net.
No one doubts the goals will start to flow. His acrobatic scissors-kick volley against Levante two weeks ago was one of Barcelona's goals of the season so far.But he looks more like topping the assists chart--he has clocked-up 12 so far in his 22 games. “Perhaps voices outside the team might say: `Luis needs to score more goals,'“ says Busquets. “But I don't care if he doesn't score more goals if he keeps working for the team the way he has.“
Even though his new role has satisfied the supporters, Suarez could still have been forgiven for missing being the main man. But the signs were there at Liverpool last season that it is something which is not his greatest concern.Someone prepared to share the limelight with Daniel Sturridge for the good of the Liverpool team was never going to take offence at having to be in Messi's shadow from time to time.
“It helps that they get on well together off the pitch,“ says coach Luis Enrique. The mate-sharing sessions with Messi (they reportedly have a shared love for herbal tea) and Javier Mascherano have certainly helped his assimilation. It is also true that he could not have picked two more influential friends; Messi the club's most important player and Mascherano the dressing-room leader--“little boss“ by nickname, and little boss by nature.
Suarez has settled into to his new surroundings, too. “He's happy here,“ says Busquets. “He wanted to come here. Part of his wife's family is from here and he visited a lot when he was at Ajax and Liverpool.“
To a certain extent some of the privacy he enjoyed in England has been lost. There were fewer autograph hunters outside of Melwood than there are every day at Barcelona's training ground.
But in the small coastal town of Gava just to the south of Barcelona where Mashcerano, Messi and Luis Enrique are all neighbours, he is happy away from the spotlight, both on and off the pitch With Messi the king, and Neymar heir to the throne, the focus is not often on others once the ball starts rolling. And such are Barcelona's problems with transfer bans, tax investigations and presidential elections, the Uruguayan is rarely the story off the field either.