The word “legend” is a word that’s often overused in football. Many fans randomly throw that word out whenever a player excites them, or whenever a player stays at a club for a long time.
The truth is a player can spend 20 years at a team and not be considered a legend; look at Chelsea, in 2018 their longest-serving player was a man who never made a first-team appearance in his career. Of course, it goes the other way too; David Villa, a man who inscribed his name in Barca history, only played in the Camp Nou for three years, and Pep Guardiola, arguably our best manager of all time, was only manager for four.
There are many different qualifications and aspects which define a legend, and not all stars fit that description. Luis Suarez, though? He is a Barcelona legend, in every sense of the word.
Luisito - you joined us as an unknown, a gamble; to some, a risk not worth taking. Fresh off yet another disciplinary incident in the 2014 World Cup and a four-month ban, they said we were crazy to bring such a volatile player to the greatest club in the world. Those are probably the same ones who said Leo Messi was too small to make it in the big leagues.
I will never forget your first match, having not played in months, playing out of position, and still getting an assist in your first-ever Clasico. I will never forget your first goal, that beautiful turn and finish against APOEL, something we’d see so many more times.
I will never forget your first Clasico goal, that incredible ball from Dani Alves, controlled and finished impeccably. I will never forget the time you sent David Luiz back to Benfica with those two Champions League goals, and the winner in the final. I will never forget the joy of watching the MSN play, the pure joy these three best friends brought to my heart.
Long story short, I will never forget any of the memories you made here; the sharp turns and dribbles, the deceptive touch and inventiveness, the otherworldly volleys, the beast-like pressing, the link-up play with Messi and Neymar, the immaculate finishing, the list goes on.
You never ceased to amaze, never ceased to inspire, and never seized to impress the Barcelona fans. Every time you stepped on the pitch, we all knew whatever happened, we’d be entertained.
Suarez leaves as the third top scorer in Barcelona history, with 198 goals and 109 assists in less than 300 matches, above a player like Laszlo Kubala. In just six years, he outscored legends who spent over a decade at the club. His goalscoring record is simply outstanding. Managing to win Golden Boot with both Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in their prime is an underrated achievement, and he certainly would’ve won the Ballon d’Or had he not played in the same era as both.
Yes, his exit comes a few years too late, and yes, he is no longer the same self-sufficient beast he once was. But Suarez in his prime was a flat-out animal, a man who destroyed the opposition in so many different ways. Coming up against an attack spearheaded by the Uruguayan was a massive challenge for any defender, without even mentioning the rest of the team.
When a man as big and strong as him can nutmeg a defender and score from outside the box into the top corner, pull off impossible volleys like it’s nothing, and still play as a target man with a predatory finisher’s instinct and create space for his teammates, what can you do? The simple answer is nothing. He was the ultimate complete striker, the greatest No. 9 of his generation.
Even as his stamina and speed waned, he still maintained his goalscoring touch, bagging an impressive number of goals for a man who was on the decline. His consistency in front of goal, and in setting up chances for others, has been unmatched in recent Barca history (not counting Messi). Villa, Samuel Etoo, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, all such talented players, but Suarez was more reliable than them all. He should not have been starting the past few seasons, especially for a club with Champions League ambitions, and as we look towards youth he shouldn’t be starting now either, but he always gave 100% to his team, that part is unquestionable.
The point is, even though we know it’s the right move, it still hurts to see Suarez go. Why? For the same reason Xavi’s departure hurt. And Andres Iniesta’s. And Carles Puyol’s. Because it always hurts to lose a legend.
Messi will probably be affected the most by Suarez’s exit. He’ll be peeved that they let the former Liverpool man leave but not him, but most of all he’ll be saddened by the loss of his best friend, his strike partner.
In many ways, the manner of his departure hurts too, gone out the back door. Getting a 60-second phone call saying he’s no longer being counted on, having his contract terminated, and leaving without a proper farewell. His last game for the club shouldn’t have been the 8-2 humiliation, although he did at least score a nice goal.
He should’ve been able to leave on his own terms, given a proper and beautiful sendoff, one that he absolutely deserved. But that’s the reality of Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s incompetence, as well as his board’s, and the lack of respect towards the players has been well-documented.
While there will be no standing ovation at a packed Camp Nou, the least we can do as fans is appreciate all that he’s done for us. Suarez is a warrior, a champion, a hero, and a legend.
Our Pistoler - we took a chance on you, and you took a chance on us. It’s safe to say both gambles paid off. At the end of the day, all I can say is thank you. Thank you for your drive, your determination, your will to win, and most of all, thanks for being Luis Suarez, the dominant, all-around beast.
I wish you the best of luck at Atletico Madrid, where I have no doubt you will thrive. When you return to the Camp Nou, you will be greeted by a massive round of applause (provided there are fans in the stadium), and you will always mean a lot to this historic club and fanbase.
Next season, you will not be wearing the Blaugrana colors. But your legacy, that will live on forever.
On behalf of Messi, Barcelona, and all Culers around the world, thank you so much and good luck Luisito, you will never be forgotten.