On Tuesday, Luis Suarez will play for Liverpool in the Champions League, and for another 90 minutes, fans’ favorite and cherished old team will be rivals once more.
Suarez’s last meeting with Liverpool in Spain was also his first since leaving the club five years ago in 2014, and the Uruguayan was the one who set the tone.
He slid in studs up, not for a tackle but for a finish, and he celebrated immediately, spinning around the back of Liverpool’s goal with his arms outstretched and a grin on his face.
He had 82 goals in 133 games for them, won a cup with them, been supported by them in the face of racism and biting scandals, and gained their devotion as one of their best ever players.
But there was no hint of restraint, let alone remorse, at Camp Nou during a Champions League last-16 clash. Suarez had put Barcelona ahead against Liverpool, and no one could deny that he was loving every minute of it.
He switched back in the build-up to the second leg at Anfield.
He discussed his tight relationship with Liverpool’s personnel and how his children learned about the city’s passion for football.
He posed for a shot next to the club’s crest on a wall, giving a thumbs up.
Nothing was spoken in jest. Suarez was developed by Liverpool from a precocious prospect at Ajax to one of the world’s most feared strikers.
He had shared both joy and sorrow with them. When Liverpool failed to win the Premier League in 2014, he cried under his shirt after a crucial loss to Crystal Palace.
However, Suarez was suddenly enjoying their defeat, and Liverpool fans were reminded. They booed and heckled as Suarez went back to work in the second leg.
As Liverpool attempted to take a throw, he deflected the ball away. He accosted Fabinho in the hopes of eliciting a response. Suarez was booked for the challenge that followed, with his hands clenched over his leg on the floor.
Liverpool fans once sang, “I just can’t get enough.” “Cheat, cheat, cheat,” it was now.
Liverpool won 4-3 on aggregate after a remarkable comeback turned a 3-0 first-leg loss into a 4-3 win on aggregate, with Suarez’s pain only adding to the joy.
They adored Suarez when he was playing for them but detested him when he was playing against them, and they will anticipate the same at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday.
‘CRUSH ANYONE,’ says the narrator.
Suarez agitated even his teammates at training, according to Steven Gerrard, in an interview with the BBC last year.
“He went up against them, wrestled with them, raised his elbows, and I thought to myself, ‘This isn’t what you generally see in training,'” Gerrard said.
“You see a lot of respect normally, but Luis will crush anyone.”
Suarez’s passion and attitude led him to join Atletico Madrid after being kicked out of Barcelona.
Suarez told Diario Sport earlier this month that Ronald Koeman “treated him like a 15-year-old” and that Josep Maria Bartomeu, the club’s president, “leaked” that he was “destroying the dressing room.”
Suarez had not had his finest season with Barcelona, and there was a case to be made that his playing style was preventing the squad from having a more dynamic, free-flowing attack. But he wanted to show that he was still a member of the elite, and he wanted to see Barcelona up close.
Last season, he scored 21 goals in 38 games for Atletico Madrid, including the game-winning goal.
Diego Simeone dubbed it “the Suarez Zone,” a proclivity for delivering when it matters most, and he was at it again before the international break, scoring in a 2-0 triumph over Barcelona.
He expressed his joy by making a phone motion at Koeman, perhaps in reference to their 40-second goodbye call.
It was also his fourth goal in as many games for Atletico, assuaging fears that a 34-year-old with an aching knee might struggle to find his feet in his second season.
But it’s when Suarez is rebellious, with an opponent to prove wrong and a chance to seize that he’s at his finest. Liverpool is completely aware of the incident.