Despite the initial successes that 2014 brought Luis Suarez, he must have been somewhat relieved to finally see the back of last year. Following his sensational form at Liverpool, that saw him crowned the PFA player of the season, he secured a deal to join Barcelona in the summer. However, all of that was then overshadowed by the biting incident at the World Cup. A worldwide ban was deemed the suitable punishment and his career in Spain was delayed until late October.
Suarez’s new club Barcelona had failed to win anything the previous season and despite still being one of the best clubs in Europe were in some state of disarray. New head coach Luis Enrique had been tasked with ensuring that the club were once again seen as the greatest club side in the world and early season expectations were not fully realised.
With further dramas going on away from the pitch surrounding the club’s transfer dealings, the arrival of Suarez for El Clasico on October 25th could not have been bigger. The game however did not go as the Catalan’s had hoped and a 3-1 loss to their most bitter of rivals did little to appease the uneasiness surrounding the club. It was thought that a three pronged attack of Messi, Neymar and Suarez could reap havoc against any defence they faced, but in such a high profile game their lack of game time together took its toll.
Playing alongside or indeed with Messi as a forward has tested even the very best players Barca have bought in recent years. When Thierry Henry first joined the club, he really struggled and just could not adjust his game to make a difference in the Catalan colours. It took him until his second season to really appreciate what was required of him. Adjusting to playing with a player as good as Messi must be like nothing else you have seen throughout your career. His technical ability and speed of movement make him incomparable with anyone else in this era and being able to even get near his wavelength is a testament to those that achieved it.
Last season saw the introduction of Neymar at Barcelona and he too struggled to integrate with Messi initially. However, the Brazilian had also had a run of games at the start of last season where he had scored several goals so at least his confidence remained high. With Suarez initially being asked to play on the right hand side of the attack, his predatory instincts unfortunately became a little rusty as confidence too betrayed him.
Following a couple of bad results, Enrique switched Messi over to the right hand side and put Suarez in the middle. First of all, this provided the Argentine with the space he craves to open up defences and secondly with players focusing their attentions on the right it allowed Suarez a little more time in the middle. Whilst his goal scoring has not been as prolific as it was at Liverpool last season, his overall contribution in recent weeks has been outstanding.
Learning when to move, when to release the pass and when to go alone is normally second nature to a forward. Playing alongside Messi and Neymar though makes things slightly trickier due to their fantastic ability.
Fortunately for Barcelona, they have purchased someone who is certainly in that group of select few who are capable of it. It certainly took Suarez a little time to adapt to his new surroundings, but it seems that we may now be close to seeing him at his best.
With the Champions League knock out round starting this week, it could not have come at a more opportune time. Sides struggled to cope with only Messi and Neymar last season and with Suarez approaching top form they will prove a handful to whoever they face.
Written by Andy Hunter
Follow Andy on Twitter @hunter67980
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