What better time to review the career of the controversial Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez than before his transfer to the Catalan pass masters FC Barcelona, where the 27-year-old will link up with Neymar and Messi in one of the most mouth-watering attacking triumvirates in world football. Through analysing his past performances we will see why Barcelona paid €95,000,000 for him.
GPG: 0.39 (Goals per game)
APG: 0.02 (Assists per game)
Hailing from the small town of Salto in Uruguay (population 110,000), Suarez moved 500km to join up with local club FC Nacional in Montevideo at the tender age of 11. He rose through the ranks of the youth teams there and in his first full season as a professional footballer, he had a GPG ratio of 0.29 which brought him to the attention of some Dutch scouts who duly snapped him up for €800,000 for Groningen. The step up in class in the Eredivisie did not stymie his development as he managed to increase his GPG ratio by 34% in his first season. An especially impressive statistic when you consider that his teammates there testified to the fact that he took a while to learn the Dutch language and settle in. Although his prowess in front of goal increased, he only registered 1 assist in 38 games (0.02 APG).
On the back of his goalscoring exploits the previous season, Ajax put in an initial bid of €3,500,000 which was rejected. Suarez immediately went to the Dutch Football Association in an attempt to force the move through but the appeal was thrown out. When Ajax put in an increased offer of €7,500,000, Ajax got their man. Groningen sold him for 10.6 times what they had paid for him. Suarez duly rewarded Ajax’s confidence with 28 goals in 51 games, once again increasing his GPG ratio by 30% on the previous season.
In his second season at Ajax, Suarez increased his GPG by 5% on the previous season. He also dramatically upped his number of assists and developed into a more rounded player. Perhaps it was the partnership he formed with Klaas Van Huntelaar. Suarez was named Ajax player of the season and the only drawback was how his manager, the legendary Van Marco Basten, was displeased with his disciplinary record of 6 yellow cards and 1 red. “Suárez is of incredible importance to us. He’s in the middle of almost everything that happens but he’s not doing us favours by getting booked all the time. If he goes on, he’ll be suspended every odd game. We’re going to have a talk with him and I won’t rule out fining him” said Van Basten at the time.
New manager Martin Jol made Suarez captain at the start of the 2009/10 season and his scoring went off the charts as he hit the onion bag an astonishing 55 times in 63 appearances at a Brobdingnagian 0.87 GPG. Suarez’s overall teamwork improved too as he set up 18 goals in the 63 games that he played (0.28 per game). This was his most prolific season to date with almost goal a game and 1 assist in every 3. Suarez had made the step up to being world class.
Ajax GPG: 0.27
Ajax APG: 0.28
Liverpool GPG: 0.41
Liverpool APG: 0.27
We have to split his statistics this season in two as he transferred club mid-season. For the first half of the season, his GPG declined to 0.27, down 69% on the previous full season. Obviously, this was not accurate as he only played a part of the Dutch season and, in November 2010, Suarez was banned for 7 games for biting Otman Bakal. It would seem reasonable to conclude that his disciplinary issues affected his GPG at this time. During his suspension, he was sold for €26,500,000 to Premier League club Liverpool as Ajax made nearly 3 times what they bought him for. In his first half-season at Liverpool, his GPG reduced to 0.41, down 53% on the 2009/10 season. His APG remained virtually static as he made a seamless transition to a team player. It took him some time to become as prolific in front of goal as he was in the Netherlands. The step up in class in leagues accounted for this.
During his first full season in England in 2011/12, he scored 24 times in 47 games (0.51 GPG). This was a slight improvement but not at his 2009/10 level yet and his assists came in at 0.21 APG, his lowest in 4 seasons. This stagnation may have had something to do with the 8 match ban he received in November 2012. As with his last season at Ajax, his disciplinary record impacted his performance on the pitch.
In Brendan Rodger’s first season in 2012/13, Suarez’s GPG ratio increased to 0.64 as Suarez continued his upward trajectory. Strangely his assists dipped to 0.8 APG. In April 2013, he bit Ivanovic and tried to force a move to Arsenal FC. His key passes per game (PPG) ratio came in at 2.8 this season so although his overall statistics dipped, he was still creating plenty of opportunities for his teammates. For comparison’s sake, Suarez’s average PPG across his career remained at 1.8 per game.
In his last season at Liverpool during 2013/14, Suarez had a GPG ratio of 0.78 and an APG of 0.36, the latter his highest ever. This was, overall, his best season to date despite the fact that he had missed the first 8 games of the season due to a disciplinary ban. Suarez also had his best ever season for key passes per game at 2.8 too as he consistently created chances for his teammates.
Starting the season a couple of months late is not ideal yet based on his previous data, we can expect that it will take some time for him to adjust to his new settings. His past statistics indicate that he will be hugely successful at FC Barcelona and the prospect of him linking up with Messi, in particular, is salivating.