Luis Suarez’s rise from the streets of Montevideo to Liverpool FC hero
New Liverpool FC signing Luis SuarezIn the first of a two-part special feature James Pearce charts the rise to fame of Liverpool’s new Kop idol Luis Suarez.
TRY telling Luis Suarez that romance in football is dead.
Fernando Torres claimed the love had gone on his arrival at Stamford Bridge last week but Liverpool’s new No 7 remains smitten with the beautiful game.
“A smiley kind of guy,” was Kenny Dalglish’s description of the 24-year-old frontman who cost £22.8million from Ajax on transfer deadline day.
Delve into his past and you understand why. Suarez’s is the classic rags to riches story.
A player who once had to reject the chance to attend a Uruguay youth team training camp because he couldn’t afford a pair of boots has had to fight tooth and nail for everything he has achieved.
Born in the Uruguayan city of Salto on January 24 1987, Luis Alberto Suarez Diaz, was the middle child of seven.
With his mother bringing up seven boys on her own after his parents split up, money was tight and life was tough.
When he was seven he moved to Montevideo and it was on the dusty streets of the capital that Suarez developed his skills.
“I had a really hard time growing up,” admits Suarez, whose 30-year-old brother Paolo plays professionally for Isidro Metapan in El Salvador.
“As you can imagine coming from a large family, we did not have many resources at home, which meant we had to carry on with a very normal life, full of sacrifices.
“When I was seven I moved to Montevideo, where my football career began. That was the first big change in my life, and since then I have faced many other big changes.
“I started playing football when I was very young and by the age of four I would run faster with the ball than without it.”
When he was 11 Suarez was invited to a national youth training camp in La Plata, Argentina, but was forced to turn down the offer.
“All my dreams had come true but it was too expensive so I had to decline because I didn’t even have enough money to buy a pair of shoes,” he said.
“It wasn’t until I was 14 that I started playing football seriously when I was selected by Nacional de Montevideo.”
After signing for the most successful club side in Uruguay football history, he made rapid progress through the ranks.
Once caught drinking and partying until the early hours, the teenager was swiftly brought back into line by an ultimatum from his youth team coach.
“Either you train like your team-mates or I will never pick you again,” he was warned.
It did the trick.
By 16 he was part of the first team squad and on May 3 2005 he made his Nacional debut against Junior de Barranquilla in the Libertadores Cup.
Suarez went on to play a key role with 12 goals in 29 appearances as Nacional clinched the 2006 domestic title.
However, despite his joy at clinching a first piece of silverware, there was something missing in his life.
His girlfriend Sofia, who is now his wife, had moved from Uruguay to Barcelona and a burning desire to be closer to her meant he jumped at the chance to move to Dutch side Groningen that summer.
A number of European clubs had been alerted to his talents but Groningen moved fast to snap the 19-year-old up for 800,000 euros.