There aren’t many players that can top the goal-scoring charts in their respective European league with a tally of 35 goals and still sneak under the radar at a major international tournament. But 23-year-old Uruguayan international Luis Suarez is an exception and he’ll be out to prove that his achievements at Ajax are no fluke.
Suarez began his professional career at Uruguayan club, Nacional. In his opening season, he notched 12 goals from 29 appearances and within 12 months had already caught the eye of a number of scouts from European clubs and it was no surprise when he agreed a deal with Dutch Eredivisie side FC Groningen for a fee in the region of £650 000. Despite stepping into unknown territory, Suarez had a successful first season with Groningen, making 35 appearances during the course of the season and finding the net 14 times. His impressive opening campaign saw him attract interest again from several European sides and after just 12 months of action in European football, Suarez signed for Dutch giants Ajax in August 2007. Having signed for a fee of £6.25m, the 23-year-old striker had the expectations of the club firmly on his shoulders as they looked to re-establish themselves as one of the best domestic clubs in the world. Like both his previous clubs, Suarez settled in quickly and scored 20 goals from 41 appearances in his first season at the club.
Following the departure of Thomas Vermalaen and Klass-Jan Huntelaar, manager Martin Jol made the Uruguayan striker club captain, despite only arriving at the club a few years earlier. With the added responsibility on his shoulders, Suarez produced his most impressive form to date this season, with a staggering 49 goals from 48 appearances in all competitions, a goal-scoring tally that leaves Didier Drogba and Lionel Messi trailing in his wake. His achievements this season didn’t go unrewarded either, as he received the Eredivisie Golden Boot award and was also voted Footballer of the Year by his fellow professionals from the Dutch league, capping an unbelievable season.
The talented Uruguayan has progressed in a similar way to England’s Wayne Rooney. At the beginning of his career, Suarez was eager to get involved in the build up and would drop off to pick the ball up from deep and look to create openings for his teammates rather than poach goals in and around the six-yard box. However, over the past two seasons, Ajax have helped develop the 23-year-old into a prolific front man, who concentrates more on playing inside the 18-yard box, only occasionally straying from it to link up the play. His electric pace and unpredictable movement off the ball make him the complete striker and one that all defenders hate to face.
His international career began in February 2007 and ended on a sour note when Suarez was dismissed late on for his second yellow card of the game. Since then though, he has notched a number of caps for Uruguay and was a key figure throughout their successful qualifying campaign, featuring in 17 of their 18 fixtures. During which he doubled his overall tally to 10 international goals. The Ajax captain is already high on the watch-list this summer for many of Europe’s leading clubs including Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona to name a few. The only concern for these sides is whether he can reproduce his goal-scoring exploits in a more competitive league or do his astonishing figures from the past few seasons in the Eredivisie flatter him a little?
There is no doubt he will be widely watched in South Africa and if Suarez and fellow countryman Diego Forlan can repeat their domestic form for Uruguay at the World Cup finals this summer, they will form a devastating strike-force that has the ability to conquer any of the other 31 nations.