“I cried for what I was having to live.” Luis Suárez was born in Salto (Uruguay), lived a tough childhood in Montevideo, changed his life in Groningen (Holland), stood out in Amsterdam, became world famous in Liverpool and fell in love with Barcelona. His climb to the Camp Nou was not easy for the Uruguayan striker, much less his farewell after having become the Barça club’s third top scorer (198). “Coming to Barça was a dream come true. I did not imagine reaching these numbers “, Suárez stressed in his farewell. When soccer players talk about dreams, they seem like phrases taken from the cliché drawer. It is not the case of Suárez. At least, when it refers to the Catalan capital. A bond that was born when he did not even dare to consider himself a footballer. Now, it will be his turn to conquer Madrid with Diego Pablo Simeone at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Luis Suárez’s life changed when he met Sofía Balbi. The current Atlético striker helped his grandfather look after cars in Montevideo to earn a few coins, while his path was wandering at school and his football did not finish starting in the lower categories of Nacional. But the Balbi family, who did not suffer financial problems (the father worked in a bank), had to leave Uruguay in the crisis of 2000. The destination was Barcelona, first L’Hospitalet and then Castelldefels. “Luis, you can. You have to focus on football and get to play in Europe. It’s the only way to get back together ”, Sofía asked Luis at his farewell in Montevideo.
After long conversations through public telephones (Suárez cheated with a card to lower expenses), the forward asked the directors of Nacional to help him travel to Barcelona to visit his girlfriend. “I was 16 years old, my brother gave me some money, about 50 euros. It didn’t bring any address, it didn’t bring anything. They opened my suitcase to check it and an aunt of hers had sent me a package for a relative and it had a phone number. They called and everything was fixed. I had great luck, ”recalls Suárez.
In Barcelona, Suárez was not interested in knowing the Sagrada Familia or Casa Batlló, he wanted to go to the Camp Nou. Walking through the Barça stadium, the Uruguayan saw an open door. “Do not enter! Don’t get involved! ”Sofía yelled at him. It was late. She ran after him. They still have the photo they took in the Barça field. Many more would come. You had to wait. Nacional transferred Suárez to Groningen in 2006 and after one season, he ended up at Ajax. In Johan Cruyff’s team he scored 119 goals in four seasons. Letter of presentation to land at Liverpool and succeed at Anfield. Nobody doubted his ability as a footballer, but his wayward character after three aggressive episodes (he bit rivals), symbolized in the incident with Chiellini at the World Cup in Brazil. Barça trusted him for the new project that Luis Enrique would begin to lead.
“Is a botija (kid) great on the soccer fields, humble, who came out of poverty. He was not chosen for a philosopher, or for a mechanic, or for having good manners. He is an excellent player ”, the then president of Uruguay, Pepe Mújica, justified it. “We accept human beings from their imperfections, their successes and mistakes and the ability to learn from what has been wrong,” added Andoni Zubizarreta, Barça sports director in 2014, when Barça signed the Uruguayan. Luis Suárez and Sofía Balbi returned together to the Camp Nou.
It was on the green of the Barcelona stadium that Suárez built another vital relationship in his life. The one you have with Lionel Messi. A bit sparing, especially shy, from the outset, the Argentine is not an easy type to seduce. They were united by mate, talks and a relationship that was strengthened from the union between Messi’s wife, Antonella, and Sofía. Together they carried out a fashion project, a shoe store, which did not prosper. Luis Suárez and Messi lived on the same street, only separated by a house that they tried to acquire more than once. They shared a trip to training sessions, spent the afternoons on the beaches of Castelldefels and it was not strange that they spent the summer together. In fact, when he received the call from Ronald Koeman to warn him that he was not part of his project, the Uruguayan was with the Argentine in Cerdanya. “You deserved to be fired as what you are: one of the most important players in the club’s history, achieving important things both as a group and individually. And not that they kick you out like they did ”, published number 10 on social networks. “It did not surprise me that Messi He will support me publicly because I know him too well. I already knew the pain I felt, ”Suarez replied.
The Uruguayan imagined that his end in Barcelona was about to fall, also the Argentine; however, they were irritated by the forms of the board led by Josep Maria Bartomeu. “I’ve been at Barça for six years, long enough to say what they think. Better so than filter if I am one of those who want me to come out ”, complained on the 9th in an interview with EL PAÍS in August. “There are things that were not known, but go to train and they send you aside because you are not part of the 11 against 11 game …”, Suárez insisted. Atlético appeared and sheltered the Uruguayan. With the red and white shirt he made his debut against Granada and signed a double. “Those days, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, until the time of the debut, were very complicated,” said Suárez, already installed with his family in Madrid.
Of course, he did not sell his house in Castelldefels. Messi will always wait for him there (if he doesn’t leave Barça). Like last October 5, when the Argentine waited for the Uruguayan to travel together to South America to play the qualifiers. There are things that do not change, as well as the influence of Sofía Balbi in his life or his affection for Barcelona, whether he plays at the Camp Nou or not.