When Liverpool's star striker, Luis Suarez, was first announced as FC Barcelona's newest transfer, both fans and critics alike were quick to pounce on the horrific mistake the blaugrana board had made. Many believed that Suarez's protagonistic role with the Reds wouldn't mesh with Messi's dominating presence at Barcelona, and they were quick to compare the signing to the club's previous blunder, Zlatan Ibrahimovič, a gaffe that Ibra himself has yet to forget.
Well over a week ago, however, Suarez's 55th minute spectacle proved to all culés that he is worth the $87 million transfer fee.
When the Uruguayan first stepped out onto the field at the Santiago Bernabéu, some were irate at the Barça manager for starting him after such a long absence, while others hoped for a disappointing performance from the striker, but I believe that most of us wanted to witness the best from Suarez. We prayed for a powerful shot from outside the box or a dizzying, evasive maneuver to open up space. What we got, oddly enough, was none of what "Suarecito" (a nod to football's greatest commentator) is typically known for. Instead, Barcelona's new number 9 was complacent in his right-hand position, aggressive when defending, absolutely stellar with his assist on Neymar's goal, and, overall, Luis Enrique's best man, in spite of their loss.
It may not have been evident during that first Clásico or Barcelona’s month of crisis, but his mature, and, some might say, best form was just around the corner.
Suarez’s first league goal came in December against a lowly Córdoba side, but seeing him on the scoresheet wouldn’t become routine until early February when the Catalans defeated Athletic Bilbao. From that moment on, the South American forward has hit the back of the net at least once in every other game, including a brace against Manchester City, an opponent he knows all too well.
With the stars, the planets, and all of the heavens finally aligning for the former Liverpool striker, it was only a matter of time before he pulled off something truly special.
Suarez’s first highlight-reel stunner came in February against Levante where he scored an artistically beautiful bicycle-kick goal after slyly losing his marker. The goal made sports news headlines around the world and even managed to overshadow Messi’s hat-trick. Barcelona would go on to win that match 5-0.
With such an acrobatic spectacle of a goal, it would be easy to believe that Suarez had finally reached his performance peak. However, there was still one more stage the Uruguayan had left to conquer before he could be considered a success this season: el Clásico.
It seems like ages ago (at least for me) that FC Barcelona, in a somewhat poor performance, defeated Real Madrid 2-1 at the Camp Nou. The blaugrana side began the match very uncharacteristically; their quick, successive passes and consistent possession were replaced by lobbed balls and slow, almost meaningless passing.
Fortunately for Barça, Suarez was impeccable that night and outshone everyone on the field, including Messi, with his quick, decisive passes, excellent defending, and magnetic ball control, the latter of which he proved with his Clásico-winning goal.
It was early in the second half when Dani Alves (yes, that Alves; the one many of us criticize for his recent poor performances) hit a beautiful curving ball directly onto the foot of Suarez as he sprinted towards goal with a defender on either side. As the ball made contact with the outside of his right boot, the Uruguayan gently kissed it forward, past the oncoming Ramos. Then, with the power and finesse of a dancer on ice, he took aim at the far left post, shot the ball past Casillas, and hit the inside of the net with more accuracy than a laser-guided missile.
Luis Suarez had finally silenced the critics by doing exactly what he is meant to do: score goals, especially when it matters most.
With the end of the league just a few games away, a four point lead on second place Real Madrid, and a Barcelona team that is running on all cylinders, it would be highly improbable for the Catalans to stumble and fall below their rivals. But stranger things have happened.
Nevertheless, it should be a great comfort to know that the Premier League's best striker has brought his talents to Catalonia, and he'll surely be taking a bite (I had to do that; I just couldn't resist) out of La Liga's competition.