Luis Suarez bids farewell to Gremio ahead of potential Lionel Messi reunion at Inter Miami

Uruguayan scores twice in 3-2 win over Fluminense in final game for Brazilian club

Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring a penalty for Gremio against Fluminense at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on December 6, 2023. AFP
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Luis Suarez ended his superb spell in Brazil by scoring twice for Gremio as they beat Fluminense 3-2 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old scored just before half-time to level the scores at 1-1 then later made it 3-1 in the 64th minute with a panenka finish from the penalty spot.

It means Suarez finishes the season with 29 goals across all competitions, helping Gremio seal second spot in Brazil's Serie A, two points behind title winners Palmeiras.

The Uruguayan also finished joint-second in the Serie A scoring charts with 17 league goals in 33 matches, three behind Atletico Mineiro's Paulinho.

But Suarez has decided to cut short his two-year deal with the club, saying his body was struggling to cope with a playing schedule that has seen him play in 54 of the club's 64 matches this season.

“I love this job, but it's hard waking up in pain every morning,” he said after scoring the winner in his final home game last weekend. “I'm hard-headed and I want to keep playing, but I don't know what comes next.”

What comes next is thought to be a move to the United States where he could link up with his old Barcelona teammates, Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba at Major League Soccer side Inter Miami.

But chronic knee problems could yet scupper his reunion plans. “The truth is that the first steps I take in the morning are very painful,” he told the 100% Deporte radio show. “Anyone who sees me thinks it is impossible for me to play a game. My son asks me to play with him and I am not able to.

“On the outside of my knee I have tension that remained from surgery in 2020 when I was in Barcelona. In the last stage of recovery, the pandemic came and I had to do exercises on my own and I couldn't finish stretching my knee.

“On the inside I have cartilage wear and that hits the bone. No liquid is generated but sometimes it gets stuck. Before games I take three pills and inject myself. From there I got the limp.”

Whatever happens now, it is clear Suarez made a big impression in his one season at the Brazilian club.

Fans and local politicians tried to talk Suarez out of his decision to leave after he announced his plans in July. And Gremio's strong showing this season means they have qualified for the Copa Libertadores next year, the South American equivalent of Europe's Champions League.

“I would have loved to play in that competition but my body is calling the shots,” Suarez said. “I need rest, recreation and time to think. It's hard to say 'basta' [enough]. Footballers are never ready for retirement.”

Gremio manager Renato Gaucho has admitted Saurez's exit is a blow for the club. “Are we going to miss him? Certainly, without a doubt, he is very loved by everyone,” said the Brazilian coach.

"I had the pleasure of working with a great professional, one of the best in the world, fourth highest scorer in the world. This void will remain for the next year, because it's not easy to find someone of his talent and ability.

“When you find someone else, it's unfeasible to bring him in financially. Unfortunately, as I said before, it was very difficult for him to stay. Everyone wanted it, but only he could reverse this decision.”

Updated: December 07, 2023, 12:06 PM