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greats collide Suarez was the goalscoring outlaw, the untamed bandit who convulsed the Kop with his genius

Ageing Atletico star is a gunslinger with one more bullet in the chamber

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Salah is one of two Anfield legends who come face to face this week in the Champions League when Liverpool play Atletico

Salah is one of two Anfield legends who come face to face this week in the Champions League when Liverpool play Atletico

Salah is one of two Anfield legends who come face to face this week in the Champions League when Liverpool play Atletico

THERE was a time when Anfield's most devout evensong rose up as hymns of praise for Luis Suarez.

All of 89 months since his three-year firestorm of impassioned, turbulent brilliance ebbed, the Uruguayan remains a beloved and vividly recalled Merseyside old boy.

Suarez is remembered as the goalscoring outlaw, the untamed bandit who convulsed the Kop with his genius.

He put the ball in the net and confounded the authorities with his talent for crossing the boundaries and advancing into the badlands.

Headstrong and impulsive, an unapologetic rebel, he was the James Dean of the English game.

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Suarez nearly helped Brendan Rodgers win the Premier League.

Suarez nearly helped Brendan Rodgers win the Premier League.

Suarez nearly helped Brendan Rodgers win the Premier League.

But also a sporting assassin who lived to heap death upon opponents.

He scored 82 goals in 133 Liverpool appearances - a feral figure of the night who seized the crimson baton that had passed through the hands of Hunt, Keegan, Dalglish, Fowler and Owen.

The one that is now held in the Egyptian caress of Mo Salah.

Comparisons between Salah and Suarez are inevitable as Tuesday's Champions League meeting of Atlético Madrid and Liverpool carries the two ace-plunderers into the same orbit.

The latter almost carried Brendan Rodgers to the Premier League podium six years ahead of Jurgen Klopp.

Suarez is fearless, bristling at sights, real and imagined, scoring 31 Liverpool goals in 2013/14.

There was 10 in one carnivorous four-game December run, and further hat-tricks against Norwich and West Brom as the rampaging Reds took the fight to a pre-Guardiola Manchester City.

Liverpool scored 101 Premier League goals, 16 more than in Klopp's title winning season, and were a free-flowing, thrilling force of nature led by a pyrotechnic centre-forward.

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Suarez - demonstrative, volatile, edgy - provoked more extreme emotions than Salah.

A passionate South American desperado, he commanded huge affection from the Kop, but, further afield, he located enemies as effortlessly as the opposition net.

He was fined £40,000 and banned for eight matches after an FA investigation found him guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra during the 1-1 draw with Manchester United in October 2011. There was a further ban for making "an obscene gesture" at Fulham fans.

Always, there was the sense of a player pushing out the boundaries, existing in close proximity to the dark side.

In April 2013, in an attack he would repeat at the 2014 World Cup, Suarez bit Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

Even the then British Prime Minister David Cameron confected outrage and the player was banned for 10 games. Suarez, already dreaming of Barcelona, opportunistically sought a transfer on the basis of "media intrusion."

But he stayed for one more year and the records tumbled in a red avalanche.

He smashed Robbie Fowler's Liverpool mark for Premier League goals in a single season, while the four he netted at Norwich helped him establish the league's best ever rate of hat-tricks to appearances (one every 20.3 games).

If Steven Gerrard's infamous slip against Chelsea, and a draw at Crystal Palace ultimately derailed Liverpool's title challenge, the acclaim came in a torrent for their star striker.

Suarez became the first non-European to be crowned PFA Player of the Year and tied Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo for Europe's Golden Boot.

A Bloomberg study rated him ahead of CR7 and Messi as that season's "most influential player" in Europe.

And then, in a £65m puff of smoke, he was gone to become part of the MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) blitzkrieg. In his first season in Catalonia, the trio would combine for 122-goals, a Spanish record.

Three months from his 35th birthday, there is a sense now of a slight waning in his powers, a slowing of legs that could once call on a terrifying turbo boost.

Yet in his relatively new life at Atlético, the old boy Liverpool will confront at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium has already broken Barca and Real's duopoly.

Last season's 21 league goals may have been fewer than his fellow A-listers Messi and Karim Benzema but also a vital force in propelling Atlético to only their second title in 25 seasons.

His five club goals - Barcelona and Milan among the victims - in the early part of the season is hardly the work of a spent force, but next to Salah's numbers they seem the merest trickle.

The African has exploded into the autumn of 2021 like a player with Ballon d'Or ambitions.

With 10 strikes in as many games following Saturday's lunchtime 5-0 cruise away to Watford - he also added an assist for Sadio Mane - there is a belief that even his momentous 2017/18 44-goal debut season at Anfield may surrender to a new high water mark.

A wonder strike against Manchester City earlier this month (an eighth consecutive match in which he netted) reinforced that belief.

The sense is of the lights dimming on the gilded Messi/Ronaldo era.

Salah, if not quite staking out the most rarefied of their old terrain, is making an eloquent announcement of his candidacy. He and Suarez will enjoy a duel within a duel on Tuesday.

This week he can remind his predecessor why the most heavenly Anfield hosannas are now reserved for those moments when the tousle-haired gunslinger announces himself as something close to a football divinity.

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