Controversy's child he may be, but Uruguay striker Luis Suarez has put behind the dark chapter of a lengthy ban for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup that has kept him out of the ongoing Copa America. His switch from Liverpool to Barcelona, forming a deadly spearhead with Lionel Messi and Neymar to win the treble this season is the stuff footballing dreams are made of. In an email interview, Suarez talks about his game, switching between two clubs steeped in tradition, etc.
How have you developed from a poacher to game-changer?
Your game changes all the time. If you are not learning every day in training, you are going backwards. Liverpool developed me as a player. At Barcelona, it's the same. We have forwards who can impose themselves, and that is how I need to be. It's a matter of confidence.
La Liga and Premier League, which football suited you better?
It is like being asked to choose between your children! I love them both and think my style works well wherever I play. In England, it is so fast and the opposition press you aggressively. The pace suited my game and I was able to make a difference. But Liverpool wasn't like everyone in the league, we played a slower, more possession-based game, which suited me. And that's how it is in Spain.
It does give you a little more time on the ball...
Yes. But at Barcelona it has all been about adapting to a new style, with players of incredibly high quality. If you can't fit in, you won't play, so I've had to make that my number one priority. Our job is to win the biggest trophies, and if we don't do that, I can't say Spain has suited my style better.
If you could bring a Liverpool player to Barcelona...
I absolutely loved my time at Liverpool, the squad... but for me, the greatest was Steven Gerrard. He made me incredibly welcome when I arrived at the club. He is the best player Liverpool have ever had, he was a leader. He is the best Premier League midfielder there has been. I know he is getting older and moving to America, he is at the end of his career so maybe we would need a time machine! But having Stevie on your team makes you feel like you're going to win before you even go out and play.
Which Premier League defender was the toughest you faced?
In England, the defenders are tall and powerful, physical players. I had good battles with many of them, but the thing is the way you play against them. If you punt a long ball up towards me and I take on one of these defenders, I am not going to win it. But the way Liverpool played, with the ball on the floor, and being released very fast to my feet, gave me a chance against the big guys. We worked hard on finding ways in which I could isolate players and then try to beat them, man on man. That was the only way I could succeed in England.
Who is the midfielder you've enjoyed playing with the most?
Barcelona have got some of the best midfielders ever. To be on a pitch with the likes of Xavi and Iniesta is an absolute dream for any forward. Their game is about playing the right ball at the right time, and my game is all about capitalising on that.
How did working with Brendan Rodgers improve your game?
Very much. When Kenny Dalglish left and Brendan was appointed (manager), I was excited. He was familiar with the Spanish way of playing, he studied there. He told me Liverpool would play possession football and that it'd suit me. He helped me with my runs, arriving in the area at the right time and coming in from wide, rather than waiting in the middle, and it benefited my movement. I wasn't proven, and I had to adapt to the Premier League; he educated me to become successful there.