Suarez has nothing to prove but much to gain in England

Barcelona: His goal against Atletico Madrid should prove Barcelona’s knock-out blow in La Liga and now Manchester United are tasked with containing the might of Luis Suarez in Europe.

The image of Lionel Messi’s partner-in-chief has been defined by his darker side, a relentless, ferocious and, occasionally, misguided opponent, running defenders ragged for the best part of a decade.

 

Then Barca’s coach Ernesto Valverde is asked about the threat posed by Suarez, the description he oftens reverts to is “un dolor de cabeza”. A headache.

Suarez’s reputation as one of the game’s arch-villains is entrenched, perhaps nowhere deeper than in England, where he was found guilty of racial abuse for calling United’s Patrice Evra “negrito” in 2011 and, a season later, sank his teeth into the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

Suarez was suspended for a combined 18 matches and there were two further bites, on Otman Bakkal in 2010 and Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup.

Suarez returns to Old Trafford on Wednesday in the last 16 of the Champions League, the tournament Barcelona crave success in this season more than any other.

Two months before his clash with Chiellini, Suarez had been named the Premier League’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year and won the division’s Golden Boot award after scoring 31 goals for Liverpool.

In four seasons at Anfield, he hit 82 goals in 133 games, a ratio better than both Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie at Arsenal, Alan Shearer at Newcastle and Didier Drogba at Chelsea.

For Barcelona, who paid Liverpool just over 80 million euros to sign Suarez in 2014, his contribution has been clouded less by indiscipline and more by Messi, the player around whom the whole team revolves.

Suarez is Messi’s provider, runner and foil but has managed to perform the role without losing sight of what he can bring too.

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