“Before the World Cup [in 2014], I was asked if there was a chance of me coming [to Barcelona]. Due to my style of play and characteristics, I said it was impossible,” Luis Suarez told Jorge Valdano in the Argentine’s BeIN Sports show, Universo Valdano, on Thursday. Suffice to say, humility is one trait the No 9 will always be credited for, yet he made a mockery of even the slightest suggestion that his brand of football would not suit the Catalans in 2015-16.
During a season which saw Lionel Messi break down with injury between September and November of last year and Neymar struggle to pick himself up from Barca’s well-documented slump in April, the one constant throughout the campaign was Suarez and his 59 goals in all competitions, including 40 in La Liga – enough to prise the Pichichi Trophy away from Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the first time since Diego Forlan in 2009.
The former Liverpool ace may have ‘only’ scored three goals in his first six League games of the season, plus none in either leg of Barca’s 5-2 Supercopa de Espana aggregate defeat to Athletic Bilbao, but his strikes against Athletic and Las Palmas (x2) proved to be winners as he took the sting out of the Catalans’ wobbly start to 15-16. And – just like his club, who went 39 games unbeaten after October’s 2-1 loss to Sevilla – he saved his best for last.
In the meantime, Suarez would only fail to score in six of his next 21 League appearances as he achieved hat-tricks against Athletic and Celta Vigo in six-goal victories – the perfect revenge against the two clubs who inflicted on Barca their heaviest defeats of the season. However, Suarez’s magnum opus came in November’s Clasico at Santiago Bernabeu, his two coolly-taken finishes helping condemn Real Madrid to a 4-0 reverse in front of their own fans.
It could be argued that Primera aficionados saw the best of Suarez when other members of ‘MSN’ were either absent or out of form. In fact, the Uruguayan’s partnership with Neymar in the first half of the season flourished while Barca were playing their most fluid football of the season, although the No 11 tailed off badly towards the end of the campaign. That didn’t stop Suarez, however, as the Pichichi became a two-way battle between him and Ronaldo.
Ronaldo may have offered Suarez the maximum-possible competition for the award, but what the Portuguese lacked in ultimately firing Madrid to the League, Suarez had it in spades, his tireless running off the ball, maddening goal celebrations and regular interviews to emphasise that friendship with Neymar and Messi went beyond the pitch complementing his prolific goal return.
Despite his side exiting the Champions League at the quarter-final stage, Suarez still scored twice in the first leg against Atletico Madrid and ended the campaign with 14 goals in his final five appearances as he also became the first player in Spanish football history to net four in consecutive games. Undoubtedly the world’s best forward on current form, a FIFA Ballon d’Or podium finish is surely awaiting the No 9 next January.