Luis Suárez interview

Luis Suárez interview: ‘There are two of me, two different people’. In the first interview since his ban for racial abuse, the Liverpool striker talks openly about that incident and his football beliefs


” Luis Suárez could see the No24 coming. The final whistle had just gone on the opening day of the season and the West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie was heading straight for him. Liverpool had lost 3-0, Suárez had missed a couple of good chances, he was wound up, tense, and now this. But this time there was no confrontation. Instead there was comfort, counsel. “He came over to me and told me that I should forget about all that other stuff,” Suárez says. “He said that I’m a great player and that I should just worry about playing.”

Odemwingie is not the first person to tell him so. As Suárez talks it is a recurring theme. There is a succession of men who have sought to shift his focus, going back a long way; men who have sought to channel his intensity, that competitive edge. “If you had seen me before …” he says. There is a pause. He leans forward a little, elbows on the table, the sleeves of his training top pulled up high. His fingers move slowly as he talks, twisting the thin wedding ring on his right hand. Outside, through the glass doors that look across Liverpool’s Melwood training ground, the rain hammers down. “If you had seen me before,” he continues, “you’d realise that I used to be even worse.”

Luis Suárez is not laughing. This is not a joke. Nor is it a plea for sympathy. And he is not fishing for compliments. It is just a statement, delivered evenly, like the majority of what he says. Yet this is not the self-congratulation of the reformed character. It is not the self-loathing either. He walks past the European Cup, past the rows and rows of boots and trainers, and up the stairs, taking a seat in an office overlooking the fields, still in his kit. He talks well; occasionally with eloquence and always with a self-awareness that is striking, even a little disarming. He says he wants to change, but doesn’t want to entirely.

The contradictions are many. Suárez feels misunderstood, but this is no sob-story – he does not excuse, nor blame. He says he does not care what people say about him, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that, somewhere inside, he does. He recognises himself, even as he does not. He says he is changing, because at times he has done himself and his team no favours, but he is not trying to be anything else. That, after all, is what got him this far. Without that competitiveness, without that edge, he would not be sitting here.

Listening to him talk it is clear that while the image does not stand up, off the pitch at least, the way he plays is ultra-competitive, confrontational, win-at-all-costs. That brings a price.

“There are people who criticise me and that’s normal because of the way I am on the pitch,” he concedes. “I get angry, I get tense. My wife says that if people reach conclusions as to what I am like based on what they see from me on the pitch they would say I am a guy who is always annoyed, always in a bad mood, they’d say what must it be like to live with me. There are two of me, two different people.”

Liverpool’s new manager, Brendan Rodgers, insists that Suárez is a good guy. Staff at the club describe him as quiet and professional. By his own admission, he first came to the Netherlands at 19 for “love”: his then girlfriend, now his wife, lived in Europe and it was a way of starting a new life together. He talks proudly of how his daughter has been going to his games from the age of 15 days. On the pitch, though, he is transformed. Pressure and personality play their part in making him the player he is. So does the past.”

Continue reading Luis Suarez’s interview by Sid Lowe.

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