It has been 12 months since Luis Suarez left Barcelona for Atletico Madrid. Compelled out as a part of an tried crew rebuild after six seasons full of success and trophies, Barcelona’s third-highest scorer in crew historical past left Camp Nou an offended man on a mission: to indicate that at 33, he might nonetheless carry out on the highest degree.
Diego Simeone’s powerful, streetwise Atletico proved the right match. Suarez’s 21 league targets fired them to the 2020-21 LaLiga title, and his final-day tears, after scoring the purpose that clinched the league in Valladolid, have been one of many defining pictures of the marketing campaign. Barca completed a distant third, seven factors again.
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This yr, with Suarez’s shut pal and confidant Lionel Messi out as effectively, Barca have lurched from one disaster to a different, with Wednesday’s 3-0 Champions League defeat at Benfica feeling like a brand new low. Coach Ronald Koeman — blamed partly by Suarez for the way and timing of his rancorous departure — is on the brink.
Suarez, in the meantime, is flying after a sluggish begin to the season, scoring twice in a 2-1 comeback LaLiga win at Getafe final week after which dispatching an added-time penalty to beat AC Milan 2-1 at San Siro within the Champions League. The ahead and his former membership will come nose to nose on Saturday when Atletico host Barca in LaLiga within the greatest recreation of the season to date.
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Trying completely satisfied and relaxed at Atletico’s coaching floor on the outskirts of Madrid, Suarez spoke to ESPN’s Rodrigo Faez on Thursday in regards to the recreation, Atletico’s season to date, and his complicated emotions about Barcelona, Koeman and Messi.
ESPN: Luis, you’ve got bought an necessary recreation this weekend. How is the crew? You are doing effectively.
Suarez: Atletico vs. Barcelona is at all times a really tough recreation. The crew that performs finest over the 90 minutes will take the win — you’ll be able to’t let your self get distracted for even a minute. After the consequence (towards AC Milan) the opposite day, the crew’s morale is de facto good; we have now plenty of confidence. However we noticed the earlier week after we turned across the recreation towards Getafe, then we misplaced once more towards Alaves. We’ll should strive to not make the identical mistake once more.
What have you ever discovered from this begin to the season? What do it’s important to enhance?
We’ve got to pay attention to how necessary and tough the primary couple of minutes are. When you do not begin with authority and conviction, placing stress on the opponent within the opening minutes, they set the tone for the sport. That is the place you grow to be robust and assured. The primary minutes are so necessary.
Some folks may say that opponents have to complete you off early, as a result of if they do not, you will get them in the previous couple of minutes …
[Laughing] We should not have to attend till the previous couple of minutes! However anyway, we’re used to it. At Atletico, that is the motto: Do not cease believing till the tip. It will depend on the circumstances of the sport, however we the gamers and the coach should attempt to right that; we should not should endure a lot. But additionally it is the fact — that is why it’s important to worth profitable the league final yr. It is not straightforward — it’s important to struggle to the tip. Soccer is so tough these days, and LaLiga much more.
Nevertheless it tastes even higher whenever you do it like that.
It tastes higher whenever you win! Within the second it is nonstop struggling, however clearly in the event you win, it tastes a lot better.
At Atleti, you are a frontrunner within the crew, you are concerned quite a bit on the pitch. You are completely satisfied. Everybody can see that.
Sure, I am completely satisfied, I am having fun with it quite a bit. To have the arrogance of teammates, the workers, the followers — they belief in your potential and what you’ll be able to carry, whether or not you are bodily proper or not, they consider in you and that makes you are feeling completely satisfied and necessary. The significance you are feeling whenever you tackle a task within the crew, that is necessary too.
Barca higher than anybody and also you go into Saturday’s recreation above them within the desk. (Atletico are fourth with 14 factors from seven video games, whereas Barcelona are sixth with 12 factors from six.) Taking a look at how Barca are doing, what might be the important thing to the sport?
We’ll should watch out. Regardless of the shape they’re in, their morale is not good — plenty of issues have been talked about in latest weeks. They received [vs. Levante] at the weekend, there was some euphoria and then they lost again [on Wednesday, to Benfica] and that hurts, but the team has to have character. They have to fight to turn the situation around, and I think the players have their pride in that sense and we’ll have to be very careful. We’ll try to take advantage of the moment they’re in now and we’ll have to be careful.
They’re going through some difficult moments, but you can’t get carried away, either.
Seeing how they treated you, and Leo [Messi], but especially with you and Koeman, are you even more keen to win?
I’m a player who owes, and loves, this profession. I dedicate myself 100% or 150% to the shirt I’m wearing at the time. I fought for a lot of years for Barcelona with pride — I even became a fan of the club — but now I fight for Atletico Madrid, which opened its doors to me after the way I left Barcelona, and I’ll fight for them until I can’t anymore, because I feel happy. I love my job. I don’t care which opponent I have in front of me.
Does it still hurt you the way Koeman treated you?
I said it at the time: It was the way they did it. I gave a lot to the club, and I don’t think I deserved to be treated that way.
They should sit down with me, one-to-one, and explain everything. Then don’t tell me that if the termination of my contract isn’t done by Wednesday, that you’ll count on me against Villarreal. Either one thing or the other. They sent me to pitch 3 or pitch 4 to train alone.
Of course, these are things you don’t forget. But I shouldn’t think only about that, but rather about doing my job well, showing that I can keep fighting for important things. Everything I did last year with Atletico is there, and now I’ll keep showing it in important moments.
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FRIDAY, OCT. 1
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Do you go into Saturday’s game as favourites?
No, I don’t think so; there aren’t any favourites. The other day, we lost against the team (Alaves) who were bottom of the table. We were the favourites. Games like ones against Getafe or Alaves? They’re games that give you the league Luis Suarez talks Atletico Madrid success and his former club Barcelona’s collapse. They’re important, when it’s an uphill struggle. But in games against your big rivals, you show your level and you prove yourself. [The big games] say something about the team and the players individually.
In these games, you have to perform.
Do you and Antoine Griezmann, who have been there, look at what’s happening at Barca over the past two weeks, and you see what it was before, two years ago? Did you already see things that could have led them to be in this situation, but maybe not as bad as it’s actually been?
Let’s see … We’re both aware that at Barcelona, you’re at a really big team, that we didn’t show our level the year that we lost (8-2) against Bayern — yes, we’re aware and very self-critical as players. We’re the ones responsible. It’s one thing to lose; how you lose is another thing. Yes, you have to be self-critical. But then you have to value it — it isn’t easy to go to Barcelona and keep yourself at the level that I did, for example. Anyone can go to Barcelona, but the thing is to maintain your level with the demands at that club. I have to be proud of that.
Seeing what’s happening at the club hurts. It hurts as the fan that I am, because I have a lot of affection for the club. It gave everything to me; it trusted in me in a difficult moment in my career. It hurts for my friends there, the friendships, the people that work inside the club on a daily basis. It hurts, yes it does.
You came to Atletico, you’re an important player, you won the league, and this season you’re scoring goals … is Atletico an oasis of happiness for you right now?
For me and for my family too, yes. Seeing their happiness when they see me on the pitch. It’s hard to be in a bad mood because there’s a spectacular atmosphere within the team, in training. It’s all positive, there’s nothing bad. That’s what makes you feel loved in a family. Then you try to perform at your best and show people that we’re happy, and live with that pressure of winning, and not getting bored of winning.
I have as many trophies as you can have individually, but I don’t get bored. I like winning and I like the challenge of keeping winning.
Sid Lowe explains what’s keeping Ronald Koeman at Barcelona after another embarrassing defeat.
That winning mentality to stay there, season after season? We see it on the pitch.
It’s put me there. Since I was a kid, it was so hard for me to get to the highest level, to keep believing and fighting until the end. It made me like that. When things go badly, I’m even more keen to do things well. I’ve always been like that.
How many goals will you score on Saturday?
On Saturday? The team picking up a win is enough! If I have the chance to score, great, but if the team wins, I’ll be very happy.
Is it strange to play against Barca without Messi being there given the relationship you have?
Yes — right now, yes. Last year was strange for me, going back to Camp Nou and him being there, because of what we’ve talked about. Now it will be strange not facing him in a Barcelona shirt. But things happen for a reason and today he’s in Paris and I’m at Atletico, and a year ago we were together in Barcelona.
You’re exactly the same. You go to Atletico and win the league; Messi goes and wins the Copa America, his goal [against Manchester City] the other day …
I’m happy as a friend, as the fan of football I am. I love seeing him happy and enjoying himself, scoring goals. It’s a difficult time because changes are difficult, and obviously it’s hard at first, but seeing him smile and enjoy himself like he did the other day, as a friend, I love it.