It is not only the bald statistics, although they are impressive enough, that have had Europe's leading clubs retracing well-worn steps to the Amsterdam Arena in recent months to cast envious eyes over Luis Suarez, the latest prospect to emerge from the Ajax finishing school.
His finishing is first-rate – 35 Eredivisie goals in 33 games last season – but aged only 23 he has already been entrusted with the captaincy of Holland's biggest club, albeit one that may not be the force of old. He succeeded Thomas Vermaelen after the Belgian moved to Arsenal last summer and with Manchester United, Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea all interested, it may not be long before Martin Jol is looking for another skipper.
Suarez, who comes from Salto, Uruguay's second city which lies on the border with Argentina, came to Holland to join Groningen aged 19 and moved on to Ajax for £5m a year later. In each of his four seasons his goal tally has improved and in all he struck 41 times in his last campaign and was named Holland's Footballer of the Year.
At Ajax he plays as part of a front three and in South Africa his performance in the second game, against the hosts, improved notably when Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay's veteran coach, included Edinson Cavani as an extra forward alongside Suarez (above), with Diego Forlan playing off the front two. Having been a peripheral figure in the 0-0 draw against France, he won the penalty for the second goal and set up the third in a 3-0 victory.
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