Luis Suarez's aggressive intensity is best hope Barcelona have of interrupting Real Madrid title march

A different league

No one expects Real Madrid’s £500m squad not to come out on top in the Spanish title race that kicks off this Saturday. But then nobody expected Liverpool to fall just three points short of winning the Premier League last season. Into any La Liga forecast must be factored the Luis Suarez effect.

“I don’t believe in stars apart from the ones in the sky,” he said on Tuesday when asked in his official presentation about becoming one of the club’s “superstars”. It sounded like something Luis Enrique might say and it is no coincidence that it was Barcelona’s new coach who provoked the club’s sudden interest in signing Suarez.

Identifying Barcelona’s lost work ethic as the team’s biggest problem, he picked out the Liverpool striker as the solution and the club moved swiftly to give the new manager the player he wanted (for just £65m, according to the Barcelona director Jordi Mestre on Tuesday).

Suarez guarantees the aggressive intensity that Barcelona were completely bereft of last season. His detractors would be quick to add that he also guarantees trouble.

On Tuesday he spoke of the deep gloom that had descended as it sank in that biting Giorgio Chiellini had cost him his best chance to light up a World Cup, participation in next year’s Copa America, and the first 11 games of the season.

 

“It’s a private matter but I have worked with the appropriate professionals,” he said, offering confirmation that he had sought psychological help. “There were many days when I didn’t want to do anything. I was depressed but I spent some time with my wife and children and got myself together again and saw that it was right for me to apologise.”

The apology would not have been enough without the “I will never do it again” promise but you can only say “never again” once and he knows this is the last chance. He also knows that, at 27, a player of his ability really should have won far more. He has no major European league titles and only minimal participation in the Champions League. He now has the ultimate opportunity to change all that.

Something about the last few days has reinforced a sense that he will take the chance. For Monday’s friendly against FC Leon he was named among the substitutes along with eight youth-team graduates, Gerard Pique, Alex Song and Xavi. But while those three senior players chose not to warm up before the game, Suarez joined the circle of kids as they went through a one-touch passing drill.

He fizzed passes back and forth to the teenage substitutes with both laces untied and admitted on Tuesday that his feet ached after not putting on a pair of boots for so long. He wanted to make the most of every moment, having been at the Nou Camp only as a spectator previously, most notably for Barcelona’s 4-1 win over Arsenal in 2010.

That night Lionel Messi scored four and, to judge from his sprightly return, the Argentine is ready to thrive, free from the pressures of the World Cup.

He will benefit from Suarez’s contagious intensity and the space he opens up as teams are forced on to the back foot by the possibility of the early pass that releases him. Alongside Messi, Suarez does not need to repeat the 31 goals from last season, he just needs to give Barcelona back the insatiable pressing game they have lost.

His unavailability until the first Clasico on 26 October has given Real Madrid an advantage – as if the most expensively assembled team in history needed one – but, as Suarez reminded everyone on Tuesday, he started last season on 30 September and soon made up for lost time.

Preventing a Real Madrid procession to the title will depend on him doing likewise this time. And being a success at Barcelona will depend on never having to miss the start of another season.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions