Once Bitten, Not Shy: Luis Suárez

"Juventus looks to arm its offensive attack to the teeth with a possible addition of the Barca centre-forward."

Photo edit by @mpj_emil (twitter)


Addio Higuain, Ciao Numero Nove.


Another one bites the dust. Or at least that is what reports would have Juventino believe as Gonzalo Higuain has seemingly played his last match for the Bianconeri and Serie A. Higuain’s brother/agent, Nicolas Higuain, has confirmed that new Juventus manager and 2006 FIFA World Cup champion, Andrea Pirlo, has informed the former Capocannoniere winner he no longer fits into the project Il Maestro has orchestrated for Juventus moving forward. Higuain’s imminent departure creates the opportunity for the appointment of a new number nine to the black and white attack.


When the first of September arrived and the transfer market opened, rumors grew in frequency and the grapevine continued to speak nonsense into likelihood, the obvious into obscurity. Long reputed names such as former Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri favorite, Napoli reserve Arkadiusz Milik, and AS Roma striker Edin Dzeko have recently fallen to the wayside for a name with a bit more bite to it: Luis Suárez. The Barcelona and Uruguayan striker has recently emerged as an option in the mercato following the untimely EIGHT - TWO(!!!) collapse by the Blaugrana against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League. Matters have only been exacerbated for the Spanish monster of a club as world-renown second best player, Lionel Messi, has requested his transfer from the team where he began his career in 2001. Dramatics were sure to ensue as the superstar’s request for a move opened the door for other European clubs to pounce in defanging the club; with interest from Inter Milan in former Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and Luis Suárez licking his chops at a move to the Italian peninsula.


Cutting His Teeth in the Premier League, La Liga, and Internationally.


Most Juventus and Italian fans are fairly familiar with the Uruguayan striker at this point in his 15+ year career. Suárez began his major senior career after joining Ajax in the Eredivisie Dutch league from FC Groningen in 2007. During his tenure playing for de Godenzonen he was able to amass over 80 goals, won the KNVB Cup in 2010 while becoming the league’s top scorer and Dutch Footballer of the Year, and was a catalyst to the club winning the Eredivisie title in 2011. In January of the 2011 season Suárez was transferred to Liverpool in the Premier League where he continued to accumulate accolades. Some of his notable achievements while in the English league include being named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year, winning the Premier League Golden Boot, and sharing the European Golden Shoe with potential future Juventus teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in 2014 while knocking in a nice 69 goals in the process.


The Barcelona saga of Suárez’s career began in 2014 where he was purchased for a staggering €82.3 million, but the Barca establishment has been rewarded with 147 goals scored since the striker joined the club as a vital member of the original trident attack with Lionel Messi and Neymar. Barcelona, with Suárez’s assistance, would go on to win four La Liga championships, four Copa del Rey titles, two Supercopa de España titles, and (unfortunately) won the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League defeating Juventus 3-1. Suárez, notably, ended the dominant run of six consecutive La Liga Pichichi Trophy wins by the dominant Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry, claiming the trophy for himself during the 2016 season.


The striker enjoys success outside of club play representing the Uruguay national team since 2007. Suárez currently has the unsurpassed honor of being the Uruguay National Football team’s all-time leading goalscorer while booting in 59 scores in 113 appearances and has led the national team to their record fifteenth Copa América title while named the Player of the Tournament in 2011. But most importantly, Suárez is infamous with the Azzurri faithful because of one moment on the pitch in June of 2014…


Suárez Fights Chiellini Tooth and Nail.


The 2014 FIFA World Cup remains the most recent time the Azzurri participated in the event since failing to qualify in 2018, but is far from the most memorable of tournaments for the Italian National team. While Italy proceeded through the Group B qualifiers without losing a match, the Azzurri did not fare as well in group play. Taking the first match against England 2-1, the Italian nationals would proceed to lose to underdog Costa Rica and completed the meltdown after receiving the coup de grâce from Uruguay 1-0 to seal the club’s elimination from the tourney.


It was not solely the reality that they had lost, but the how, that ruffled more than a few blue feathers that sunny day in Arena Das Dunas stadium. In the 59th minute referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez of Mexico made the first of two controversial calls by sending off Juventus and Azzurri midfielder Claudio Marchisio for a questionable tackle. Then around the 79th minute, with both teams knotted 0-0, the soon-to-be infamous striker made his move. Luis Suárez masticated the shoulder of Juventus and Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, sinking his incisors into the fabric of the centre-back’s Puma jersey.


Chiellini would petition the Mexican referee in vain for the assault, displaying the bite marks that remained impressed on the flesh of his left shoulder. Shortly after the altercation, Uruguayan central defender Diego Godin would head in a corner kick sealing the victory for the South American squad and sending the Italians home from the competition.


On the same day after the match, FIFA opened a disciplinary proceedings case against Suárez for the attack on Chiellini. Two days later, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee announced the harsh punishments of a nine international match ban (ending his 2014 FIFA World Cup stay), a four month ban from participating in all football-related activities, and a fine of approximately €82,000 against Suárez. Following the FIFA results the Juventus defender even stated that the incident ‘should have earned him a red card, which is what I said to the referee. I even thought the suspension he received was a bit much.”


Which begs the question, how could these two adversaries with all of the bad blood ever be expected to cohabitate the same club? Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini has addressed the matter before and again in his recently released autobiography ‘Io, Giorgio’.


In the book Giorgio explains: Nothing strange happened that day. I had marked Cavani for most of the game, another attacker who was difficult to handle, then suddenly I noticed that Suarez had bitten my shoulder. It happened, and this is his way of dealing with direct confrontations, and, if I can say it, it is also mine: he and I are alike and I like to face challenges in this way. I admire his malice, if he lost it he would become a normal striker.”

**********


WARNING: This next phrase quoted by Giorgio Chiellini uses an expletive term that some may consider offensive.


You have been warned, it’s coming up right after this.


That is, unless my editor decides to censor it. In which case you will be none the wiser.


Except the Bianconeri Zone is based out of Turin and I believe Italian and European media in general are more lax in the language you are allowed to use.


I suppose we will find out together....


**********

“I am a great son of a bitch on the pitch as well and I am proud of it: malice is part of football, I don’t even call it impropriety. You have to be smart and I have always admired Suarez.”, Chiellini finished.

**********


Did he do it?


Did he let me use the word?


Did the world collapse?


Is the Federal Trade Commission in America in shambles after the use of uncensored ‘profanity’ in a media format?


No? Okay, let's move on.


**********

O, Captain! My Captain! The Juventus captain typifies the drive and passion to fully live the ‘Fino Alla Fine’ lifestyle. Chiellini explains that it is a mindset developed by only the top competitors willing to engage at the highest levels for their country or club. The two even swapped jerseys following a later match between Juventus and Barcelona in April of 2017 that saw the defender score in a 3-0 Juventus win. What happens on the pitch might as well be in Las Vegas, forgive and forget. If the long tenured captain of the Bianconeri can forgive and get behind the addition of a potential foe-turned-ally, that quite literally drew blood, the rest of the organization surely can, as well.


Fino Alla Fine: The Bottomline.


While getting a little long in the tooth (he is 33 years old), one thing is clear about Luis Suárez the player. He is a proven winner and knows how to fill up the stat sheet. Take a minute to watch a couple minutes of his highlight ‘mixtape’ (as the kids would call it) and it is evident the Uruguayan has phenomenal ball control skills and awareness. Something Juventus sorely lacked was a dependable third member to form the trident attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala. Fellow strikers Juan Cuadrado, Federico Bernardeschi, and Douglas Costa all struggled in the role virtually as did Higuain this past season. The Uruguayan can fill that void and the numbers speak for themselves: Suárez has tallied a total of 475 senior career goals for both club and country. The pedigree the striker brings to the club would be an asset in Turin and a trident comprised of Ronaldo, Dybala, and Suárez would have fangs to say the least.


The negatives... Well they are fairly evident, as well. Controversy seems to follow Suárez everywhere he journeys. The 2010 FIFA World Cup handball on the goal-line against Ghana, multiple accusations of diving early on in his career (one he admitted to), the Football Association found Suárez guilty of racially abusing former Juventus player Patrice Evra in 2011 (during Evra’s stint at Manchester United), though he disputes the latter. And the biting. Not only on the occasion involving Chiellini and the Azzurri in 2014, but twice more Suárez was accused of biting opposing players during matches. Once in the Premier League he bit Chelsea player Branislav Ivanović and earlier at Ajax biting PSV Eindhoven player Otman Bakkal where he earned ten and seven match bans, respectively. While the incidents occurred early during his career and many forgiven, not all are easily forgotten. Reports are Suárez and Chiellini have spoken within the last 48 hours, possibly to clear the air further or to discuss his potential role with the club. Regardless, multiple signs point to the maturing of the player and, hopefully, of the person as well.


The prospect of filling the number nine position with a player of Suárez’s caliber is intriguing, especially given current options on the market are limited. Not all Bianconeri fans are going to be excited with the addition of an already aging and contentious player, but production and success on the field should be enough to quiet the dissenters. The coming days or even hours (if news has not already broken prior to this article’s release) should be telling if Suárez is the man Pirlo and Paratici have penned for the job. What he will do with that opportunity is up to him. One thing is for certain: Suárez can have a successful tenure at Juventus as long as he is careful not to bite off more than he can chew.


By Justin Soforo

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