Barcelona's Luis Suarez: Carlos Tevez inspired me to go to Liverpool
Barcelona striker Luis Suarez credits fellow South American Carlos Tevez for inspiring him to make the move to Liverpool in the Premier League from Dutch club Ajax in 2011.
Suarez, who has scored 37 La Liga goals this season and is four goals in front of Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo in the Pichichi race, told ESPN's Quique Wolff on Tuesday that he never imagined his career would play out the way it has.
"When I was playing at Ajax, it was Carlitos Tevez who inspired me to try to play in the Premier League," the 29-year-old said. "I would watch him and I would think, 'If Carlitos can do that, why can't I? He is tiny against all those defenders.'"
Suarez played three and a half seasons for Liverpool amid highs and lows before Barcelona gambled £75 million to take him to Catalonia after his infamous bite of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 World Cup.
The move has paid dividends for the Catalan club. Despite their loss to Atletico Madrid in Champions League quarterfinals, the Blaugrana are on the verge of pulling off a double with a Primera Division title and the Copa del Rey crown.
The Uruguayan delivered two goals and an assist in Barcelona's 5-0 dismantling of crosstown rivals Espanyol last weekend, helping secure three points that could prove crucial, as Real Madrid's surge has them just a point behind in a tight La Liga race that will come down to this weekend's matches. Barcelona have 88 points, one ahead of Real Madrid in second.
The brace took him to 37 La Liga goals this campaign and his assist keeps him tied with Lionel Messi at the top of the league.
"The entire team deserves the credit for my streak," Suarez said. "Now my teammates look for me because they know I am in the running. Leo [Messi] and Ney[mar] give me the penalty kicks. That shows that the team sees what I am capable of over these last few games and they want me to score."
Suarez has scored 56 goals in 51 games, and 11 in his last four. He credits team unity for helping salvage the tight La Liga race. The Catalan club were clearly atop the table until mid-April when they fell to Atletico Madrid in the defence of their Champions League crown and also lost three straight La Liga games for the first time since February 2003.
"What surprised me was that since I arrived everything went so well and we got so accustomed to winning," Suarez said of the season up until April. "I wondered what might happen if we started to lose but now I see that the group remained strong and united. We sent messages to each other to remind ourselves to believe in each other and that helped us keep our spirits up."
He added: "Winning now depends upon us and we are aware that we are one match away from winning the league, which was our main goal from the beginning of the season.
"The great thing about football is that until you actually win you can't celebrate and anything can happen. In February people said, well, now you have La Liga wrapped up and you can go after the Champions League. But then we had that dip in form and that's football. We didn't win and then we knew our nice lead was lost and now it is on us to recover."
Suarez said that losing in Champions League was part of the slide and left the team "slightly bitter.
"But we had the good luck to lose to one of the clubs that made it to the final," Suarez said of Atletico.
He added that he surprised himself by how well he was able to adapt to Barcelona's tiki-taka ways.
"I never imagined that I would be scoring goals here, I never felt I would adapt to this team's style of play the way I have," he said. "Sometimes they start the touches and I think that I can't do that, that they will play it like that and I will just push it [toward the goal]."
Suarez said that the full season doesn't really give players a chance to enjoy anything.
"We are used to lots of travel and play, but as a footballer you don't really get to see," said Suarez, who added that he came right off the international break to a full slate of club matches.
"We had gone 39 matches without losing and then we lost four of five matches. They are dips but we remained united and trusted ourselves.
"I guess there is a reason why no club have ever won two Champions League titles straight. It isn't easy."