Chants for Luis Suarez can often be heard coming from the stands at Camp Nou as Barcelona's Uruguayan striker has played a huge role in Barca's success in recent years. However, back when the iconic stadium first opened in 1957, fans of the Blaugrana were already chanting the name Luis Suarez, or Luisito.
The original Luis Suarez was born in A Coruña, Galicia in 1935. He began his professional career with his hometown club, Deportivo La Coruña. He first signed for Depor in 1949 and worked his way through the youth teams before debuting against Barcelona in December 1953. On that day, Depor lost 6-1 but Suarez made his mark in the team, playing 17 games and scoring three times before signing for Barcelona in 1954.
His Barcelona debut came against his old club on his 19th birthday but it took Suarez a bit of time to have a serious impact in Catalunya. He spent the bulk of his debut season with España Industrial who were a Barcelona affiliate. In 1970, the club would merge with Atletic Catalunya to form Barcelona B but by that stage, Suarez was coming to the end of what ended up being a remarkable career.
Suarez's real breakthrough season came in 1955 and over the next six years, he would become a key member of an excellent Barcelona team. He played alongside Ladislao Kubala, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ramallets and Evaristo over his time with the Blaugrana and won the 1957 Copa del Generalisimo (the name of the Copa del Rey at the time) and 1958 Fairs Cup (UEFA Cup), but it wasn't until Helenio Herrera's arrival in 1958 that Barcelona really lifted their level to that of competitive rivals Real Madrid, who were dominating in both Spain and Europe.
Suarez's involvement with Barcelona generally came in an attacking role, either as an inside forward or attacking midfielder. He had an elegant, graceful style of playing that earned him the nickname El Arquiteco (the architect). He was a fantastic passer who had great awareness of where his teammates were as well as an explosive shot that meant he could add goals to his assists. With the ball, he was extremely skilful and had incredible technique which led to him being one of the best players of his generation.
When Herrera arrived at Barcelona in 1958, he was able to piece everything together to ensure the Blaugrana reached the next level. Many suggested Suarez and Kubala were at odds with each other but the truth was that the two were good friends and vital to Barcelona's success. La Liga was won in both 1959 and 1960 with a further Copa del Generalisimo in 1959 and another Fairs Cup in 1960. Herrera left Barcelona in 1960 after a fallout with the Barcelona board but it was still a memorable year for Suarez.
The Ballon d'Or
Suarez was already among the best players of the time and this had been acknowledged when he came fourth in the 1959 Ballon d'Or behind John Charles, Raymond Kopa and the winner Alfredo Di Stefano. However, in 1960 he would do even better and win the award himself ahead of legendary names such as Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Hans Seeler and Lev Yashin.
Success in the Ballon d'Or meant Suarez was the first ever Spanish-born player to win the award. He would never win it again but did make the top five, five further times. In the almost 60 years since, no other Spanish-born player has won the award. Therefore his legacy as one of Spain's all-time greats remains to this very day despite their more recent success between 2008 and 2012.
While La Liga and the Fairs Cup were both won in 1960, it could have been even better for Suarez and Barcelona. In the European Cup, they enjoyed famous wins over Wolverhampton Wanderers and AC Milan before meeting Real Madrid in the last four. Unfortunately, Real were dominant in this competition and beat Barca home and away on their way to winning their fifth successive European Cup.
1960 also saw the birth of a new competition. The European Championships were being played for the first time, and many believed Spain, with Luis Suarez and many other greats from excellent Barcelona and Real Madrid sides, could win the competition. Sadly, as it was, they didn't even make the finals, although it was no fault of their own and it didn't even come with defeat on the field.
Spain's fascist dictator, Francisco Franco refused to allow the team to travel to take on the communist Soviet Union when the pair were drawn together in the final qualifying round. As a result, UEFA kicked Spain out and the Soviets went on to win the final tournament which took place in France during the summer of 1960.
Having won La Liga in 1960, Barca went into the European Cup in 1960/61 and they were faced with an all-Spanish tie against Real Madrid who were defending champions in the second round. Real had won all five editions of the European Cup but Barcelona finally handed them their first defeat with a 2-1 win at Camp Nou after a 2-2 draw in Madrid, in which Suarez had scored both goals for Barcelona.
With Real out of contention, many expected Barcelona to go all the way. Wins over Spartak Hradec Kralove and Hamburg sent them to the final where they were due to meet Bela Guttmann's Benfica in Bern, Switzerland. Unfortunately for Barca, they were beaten 3-2 as Benfica won their first European Cup, the first of two in a row for Guttmann and his men.
Transfer to Italy
That European Cup final loss would bring an end to Suarez's Barcelona career. Trouble was brewing off the pitch and the club needed money, so they agreed to sell Suarez to Inter Milan, now managed by Herrera, for a world record fee of 250 million Italian Lira (£142,000). At the time of his departure, he had made 253 appearances, scoring 141 goals for Barcelona.
Now back under Herrera, Il Mago (the wizard) decided to change Suarez's position to fit what he was trying to do in Milan. He moved Luisito into a deeper role, similar to the modern deep-lying playmaker. The idea was to use a Catenaccio where Suarez would, through his physicality and reading of the game, support the defence whilst also utilising his vision and passing range to set up counter attacks. Herrera did not want his players to dribble as he felt a quick pass forward would hurt the opposition more.
Suarez didn't win anything in his first season in Italy but Inter did managed to finish second in the league. The following season they really found their feet and won the first Scudetto of the Herrera era in 1963. They had started the season poorly but recovered well to take the title ahead of Juventus and AC Milan. This was Inter's first title in a decade.
Inter were unable to defend their title in 1964, losing in a playoff to Bologna, but it was still a memorable season for Suarez. As champions, Inter went into the European Cup for the first time. Everton, Monaco, Partizan Belgrade and Borussia Dortmund were all defeated to set up a final against Suarez's old rivals, Real Madrid.
Goals from Sandro Mazzola and Aurelio Milani put Inter 2-0 up before Felo got one back for Real. Eventually, Mazzola added a third to restore the two-goal lead and Inter won their first ever European Cup at their first attempt. Winning his first European Cup was a great moment for Suarez but he wasn't finished there, and more success would soon follow.
After the disappointment of the 1960 European Championships, Spain beat Romania, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to reach the finals which they were selected to host in the summer of 1964. Even so, the home fans didn't give Suarez the warmest welcome in Madrid. They were unimpressed that one of their best players had chosen to leave Spain to play abroad and perhaps also the fact that his Inter team had just defeated Real Madrid in the European Cup final didn't endear him to the crowds in the Santiago Bernabeu, who booed him initially. However, Suarez's performances on the pitch soon brought the fans back on his side.
Double European champion
Hungary were defeated 2-1 after extra-time in the semi-finals which set up a final against the 1960 champions, the Soviet Union. Another 2-1 win saw Spain crowned European champions and Suarez earned a place in the Team of the Tournament due to his sublime displays. The win also meant that he became the first player to win the European Championship and the European Cup in the same season.
The success continued into the 1964/65 season as Il Grande Inter won almost everything. They won back the Scudetto and defended the European Cup by beating Benfica in the final, who Suarez had played and lost to in the 1961 final with Barcelona. They also defeated Independiente of Argentina to win the Intercontinental Cup. The only trophy that eluded them that season was the Coppa Italia in which they did reach the final before succumbing to Juventus.
Inter won another Scudetto in 1966 and yet again beat Independiente to win the Intercontinental Cup but their European dream was ended by eventual winners Real Madrid in the semi-finals. That would prove to be the beginning of the end for this great Inter team and it wouldn't be until Herrera and Suarez had both left the club that they would win another trophy despite reaching the final of the 1967 European Cup where Jock Stein and Celtic blew them away in Lisbon.
Herrera himself left Inter in 1968 after the indignity of a fifth placed-finish, his worst ever with the Nerazzurri. Suarez managed to hang on for another two years before leaving in 1970 but there's little doubt that the duo brought the best out of each other and their best days came when they were together with Herrera on the sideline and the man he referred to as 'The Prophet' doing his bidding on the pitch.
Suarez was a key part of what Herrera did at Inter. He had a lot of talent at the club with the likes of Mazzola and Giancinto Facchetti winning many of the plaudits but Suarez's role was vital. The very essence of Catenaccio was to defend deep and then launch counter-attacks. Suarez could dig deep in defence and then when the ball was won, few were capable of turning defence into attack in the way Suarez could with his pinpoint, accurate passing.
The two also helped each other off the field. Many of the stars of the 1960s fell to off the pitch problems but Herrera kept Suarez's head in the game and away from the vices that affected players like Garrincha, Puskas and Kubala. The coach also knew that Suarez was superstitious and used to famously knock over a glass of wine at prematch meals when he discovered that Suarez believed this was a good luck charm. He would also dab the spilt liquid onto his shoe and forehead.
Suarez left Inter having won three Scudettos, two European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups. He played 328 games for the Nerazzurri, scoring 55 goals. His average of around a goal every six games is a lot worse than his better than a goal every other game record at Barcelona but this is merely a reflection of the difference in his roles at either club. Such was Herrera's obsession with getting the ball forward quickly, Suarez was usually well away from the action having started the counter-attack with a long, direct pass forward.
After Inter, Suarez remained in Italy with Sampdoria. He played for them across three seasons, featuring 63 times before retiring from football in 1973 after 20 years in the professional game. He never managed to lift any trophies with La Samp but he did win a share of their top goalscorer award in 1971/72 when three players each netted five times in a particularly low-scoring season.
After retirement, Suarez remained in the game for another 20 years as a coach. He took over Inter for the first time in 1975 but he never hit the same heights in the dugout as he did on the pitch. He had three spells with Inter (two were as an interim manager) and also managed Sampdoria, SPAL, Como, Cagliari, La Coruña and Albacete, but probably his most impressive spell came with the Spanish national team.
Suarez took over the under-21 job in 1980 and led Spain to the final in both the 1984 and 1986 editions of the competition. They lost the 1984 final to England but beat Italy in the 1986 final which was probably a key factor in his promotion to the senior job in 1988. He led the team at Italia '90 where they topped their group but lost to a good Yugoslavia team after extra time in the last 16.
After his final job as a manager in 1995 when he served as an interim manager at Inter, he was appointed Technical Secretary for the club. He remained in that role until 2002 and the highlights were said to have been him playing a key role in the signings of Ronaldo and Ivan Zamarano.
Since retirement, Suarez has received a number of honours to mark his outstanding career. In 2001, he was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Order of Sports Merit which is the highest sporting distinction in Spain. He was also a recipient of the Marca Leyenda award. This award is given out by Marca, a Madrid based newspaper, to the best sporting professionals in history.
In 2015, a ceremony was held at Camp Nou as Suarez delivered his Ballon d'Or award to the clubs museum. At the ceremony, he spoke of his pride at winning the award and his status, to this very day, as the only Spanish-born Ballon d'Or winner. He said that he felt one particular Spaniard, Andres Iniesta, should also have won the award. Suarez said that Iniesta reminded him of himself in the way he played and that he should have won the award in 2010 when he not only scored the winning goal in the World Cup final but had an excellent season for both club and country.
So, in a ceremony dedicated to himself, he chose to praise another, showing the kind of humble man he is - a fact that was further displayed when a plaque was put up outside his childhood home in A Coruña. Suarez said of all the honours and awards he had received, this one meant the most to him. As it is in his own neighbourhood and shows that he is recognised by those closest to him, it meant more than anything else.
While this season will no doubt bring more cheers for Luis Suarez at Camp Nou, it's important to remember that while the Uruguayan is a fantastic player, there was once another man of the same name who played on that same pitch, in front of those same fans and as good as the current player is, the former arguably did even better than the Uruguayan could ever imagine.