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An ode to one of the greats | The numbers behind Luis Suárez’s career in Europe amid his return to Club Nacional

Suárez returns to his boyhood club Nacional after spending seventeen years in Europe, with the vast majority of those years on the books of some of the biggest clubs on the continent

Though his contentious reputation has always preceded him, Luis Suárez has been - without question - one of the top strikers in Europe for the majority of his career in the biggest stages on the continent.

Per reports from transfer insider Fabrizio Romano, Suárez has returned home to Uruguayan giants Club Nacional this summer on a free transfer after terms with Spanish giants Atlético Madrid ran down after the 2021-22 La Liga season.

Suárez, now 35 and in the twilight of his career, is currently recovering from surgery on his Achilles tendon and is not expected to be back before October of this year, but once fit, will embark on one more swan song in Montevideo.

Despite spending time with both Artigas de Salto and Urreta, Nacional - one of Uruguay’s two footballing giants along with Peñarol - is where it all began for him when scouts from Dutch outfit Groningen first saw Suárez during the 2005-06 season where he helped Tricolores win the league title while netting against Defensor.

An €800k move would follow for Suárez ahead of the 2006-07 Eredivisie campaign, and a star would soon come alive in the former Hanseatic city.

Ten goals in 27 appearances signaled a very good return for Groningenin which would be Suárez’s only season in the north of the Netherlands, with Dutch giants Ajax quickly jumping on the budding young striker after just one season.

Suárez went on to steal the hearts and minds of Ajax supporters for four seasons, bagging 111-goals in just 159 appearances across all competitions while winning both the golden boot and the Dutch footballer of the year in 2009-10 in the wake of a 35-goal haul in the league.

But the now established Uruguayan international was ready for bigger tests, and despite his overall status on the red half of Merseyside, he almost failed to win the Kop over at Anfield after his initial two seasons with legendary English side Liverpool yielded just 15-goals in 44 appearances in the Premier League.

Patience would pay off for the Reds, however, and the second half of Suárez’s spell at Liverpool saw him smash 54-goals in 66 league outings while vast becoming recognized as one of the top strikers in Europe.

Spanish giants Barcelona would be the next top club to benefit from Suárez’s presence in their senior squad after his love affair with Liverpool came to an end in the summer of 2014 in a £65m move to the Camp Nou to join forces with Barça star Lionel Messi and Brazilian youngster Neymar.

What eventually would be dubbed “MSN” (Messi-Suárez-Neymar) will go down as one of the most gifted attacking trios in football history, and Suárez’s 2015-16 performance stands to this day as his career-best season.

All told, Barcelona would stand to hugely benefit from the deal for Suárez to the tune of his 147-goals in 191 appearances in La Liga, as well as his 198-goals across all competitions in the 283-times he was called upon.

His final two years in Europe would come by way of a stint with La Liga rivals Atlético Madrid after Barça sold him on for a paltry €9m in the summer of 2020. But Suárez would have the last laugh while finding the back of the net 21 times in 32 appearances while helping Diego Simeone lift the La Liga title while Barça languished seven points adrift in third behind Real Madrid.

In his worst goal-scoring return since 2011-12, Suárez only managed 11 goals last season for Atléti, but his status as one of the modern game’s most feared strikers had long been guaranteed.

The total figures behind Suárez’s seventeen years in Europe are hard to beat; 339 league goals in 507 appearances between 2006-2022, with that number expanding to 420 goals in 695 appearances across all competitions, for a strike rate of 0.67/match (league) and 0.60/match (all comps).

Though Uruguay’s all-time leading goalscorer (68) may not have had the send-off at the top of the European game that his career would have warranted, there is something to be said about going back to where it all began. And maybe, just maybe, there is still one magical moment left for the boy from Salto.

Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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