| 8.6°C Dublin

hot shot Luis Suarez rubs Barca noses in it as he lights up Atletico Madrid's title push

Former Liverpool man silencing his doubters at the Nou Camp

Close

Luis Suarez has been in fine form for Atletico Madrid

Luis Suarez has been in fine form for Atletico Madrid

Luis Suarez has been in fine form for Atletico Madrid

The tears flowed as Luis Suarez reluctantly left his Barcelona dream behind last summer, yet the emotions could be flowing for a very different reason at the end of this season.

After Barca icon Lionel Messi led the campaign to block Suarez's contentious move to Atletico Madrid, the Catalan giants declared they had no option other than to off-load some of their highest-paid performers as they battled to fend off the financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Messi and Suarez had formed a strong bond on and off the field during the six years they spent together following the latter's move to Barcelona from Liverpool, with the message he sent as he made his exit saying so much about the affection the two shared.

"You deserved to depart as one of the most important players in the club's history, not for them to kick you out like they did," declared Messi, with the exit of Suarez one of the reasons why he also wanted a transfer last summer.

Offload

In the end, Messi has been forced to wait another year for his exit from Barca and though the decision to offload Suarez had more to do with finances than sport, the decision has come back to bite his former employers time and again this season.

A glance at the La Liga scoring charts for this season reveals Messi and Suarez are going toe-to-toe in a battle for Trofeo Pichichi, awarded to the leading marksman in the Spanish top-flight each season.

Even if Messi ultimately finishes as the league's top scorer for a fifth successive season and an astonishing eighth time in total, Suarez is on course to claim the biggest prize of them all.

Atletico are riding high at the top of the table with a comfortable lead over Barca and Real Madrid and if Diego Simeone's men are to be crowned as champions of Spain, their leading scorer will be king of their great triumph.

Now 34, Barca decided Suarez's huge wages and what were perceived to be fading talents could not be catered for anymore when they looked to cut costs, but the goals and brilliance he has injected into Atletico this season have confirmed that he still has so much to offer.

Suarez's goals-per-minutes played this season means he is comfortably the most prolific marksman in Spain this season, with a title triumph in touching distance for the striker who has defied the Barca decision-makers who wrote him off as yesterday's man.

"I'm happy to feel valued here," declares Suarez said.

"People thought it was easy to play at Barcelona and score 20 goals. No, it was not easy.

"It is nice to show there's merit in what I did, that I can play in the elite, and not just because I was at Barcelona with the world's best player alongside me."

Intriguingly, Atletico's success over the last few months has been built on very different principles to those associated with coach Diego Simeone during his decade at the helm.

The Atletico side that knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League days before the Covid-19 pandemic brought the sporting world to a standstill last March did so using Simeone's tried and tested formula of counter-attacking football.

For many years, Atletico were famed for being horrible to play against, with their counter-attacking brilliance allowing them to mix it with the best side's in European football.

Yet the Atletico side that will attempt to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit against Chelsea in their Champions League last-16 tie at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night will approach their task with a whole new image.

Simeone has revitalised Atleti with a new ethos of open, attacking football built around tactical tweaks and player role transformations.

Suarez has been central to that evolution, with his use of three central defenders and eagerness to spread the game with fast, attacking play ensuring chances aplenty have flowed for Suarez.

Atletico have upped their possession stats and play on the front foot in a manner that could test Chelsea's resolve as their new coach Thomas Tuchel looks to build on the momentum he has created since he replaced Frank Lampard as Blues boss in January.

Remarkably, Tuchel is the eighth coach Chelsea have appointed since Simeone took the reins in his current post boss and while the Atletico leader has suggested his focus is on La Liga success rather than European glory, he will hope there can be room for both.

Whatever happens on Wednesday night in London, the tears may well be flowing for Suarez once again in May in Atletico beat Barcelona to the La Liga title.

Given the shoddy way he was treated by Barca's decision-makers in his final days at the club, it would be sweet revenge.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Sunday World


Top Videos





Privacy