Opinion

How Luis Suárez became Barça's most influential player

Not since the days of Samuel Eto'o has Barça such a physical striker who pushes and shoves taller centre-backs

How Luis Suárez became Barça's most influential player
How Luis Suárez became Barça's most influential player

Not since the days of Samuel Eto'o has Barça such a physical striker who pushes and shoves taller centre-backs

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It's been a long time since anybody at Barça came close to replicating Lionel Messi's contribution purely in terms of goals and assists. Even on an European level, only Cristiano Ronaldo competed against Messi and it seemed it would be forever before anybody came to gatecrash their party -- Until Luis Suárez joined Barça, that is.

Born in Uruguay, where he is popularly known as Luisito, Suárez came to Barcelona after his much publicised "biting incident" on Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Although the hugely unsavoury situation led to the end of his Liverpool career, Barça did not hesitate for a second and were quick to pounce on this opportunity.

After forking out a staggering €82 million, expectations were undoubtedly high. However, nobody could have anticipated the kind of impact the Uruguayan went on to make on the Catalan side. His talent was there for all to see, but he exceeded all expectations and become the most important attacking player at the Camp Nou.

Suárez's first season started at a slow pace due to his four month long ban. He also, supposedly, had to shed a few kilos to stay match-fit. But his dedication and constant harrowing of defenders from the very beginning was a sign of things to come.

The season that just ended brought out a much hungrier Suárez, who would go on to win both the Pichichi and European Golden Shoe -- the first man since Diego Forlan to have won the award and is not named Messi or Ronaldo.

The 40 goals Suárez scored in La Liga bailed out the team on numerous occasions. As if that wasn't enough, El Pistolero netted 58 goals in all competitions, which is an immediately legendary return to be proud of. The No.9 was easily the MVP of the season. Whether that was due to Messi's deployment in the middle of the park, which resulted in lesser goals for the Argentine, or to the sheer amount of hard work and his perseverance does not matter: The Catalans ended up lifting the title thanks to Suarez's brilliance.

Suárez's contribution to the team's success cannot be just measured on the basis of goals or assists, however: He is much more than that. Not since the days of Samuel Eto'o has Barça such a physical striker who pushes and shoves taller centre-backs which unfortunately players like Messi and Neymar aren't able to do in spite of their obviously superior skill-set. Also, the No.9 provides an extra presence in the box during corners and free-kicks -- a gem of a player to have in your team.

The way Suárez draws out defenders opens up spaces for players like Neymar and Iniesta to operate upon and weave their magic. With Suárez expected to score goals in every game he plays, Messi continues to dazzle and astound us from an attacking midfield position thereby easing Messi's transition to his newer role.

Taking his past actions into account, it can be said that Suárez has been pretty well behaved. He has learnt to channel all his anger and frustration towards working even harder and the results are there for all to see.

Still just 29, Suárez has several seasons left in him as a top-class striker. Although it is quite early to predict something of this nature, it looks like Messi and Ronaldo's monopoly on the Ballon d'Or might be really tested in 2016.

By Abhishek Das, columnist at Barcablog. Follow him on Twitter here