Being proud of him as a friend and also as a Uruguayan, I congratulated Luis Suarez after he scored the winner in el clasico against Real Madrid last weekend.
We live on opposite sides of the world, but we talk a lot. He was genuinely happy in Liverpool and had a real affection for that club, but the Barcelona move was right for him.
A change was good for him at that time and he moved to a city he knew well, one where his in-laws lived and where Spanish is spoken.
And it was Barca, playing with some of the best players in the world. Which player would not be attracted to that?
He took time to settle at Barcelona because he’s human and needed to adapt and know his new teammates and new life.
Not being able to play because he was banned didn’t help him, but once he returned in October’s clasico he began to build a rhythm and get used to a new role in the team.
In Liverpool he played on his own as the main striker or with a player behind him as he does for Uruguay. He had space.
For Barca, there are three strikers and opponents play deeper. There’s little space for strikers and he’s adapted well.
By the clasico on Sunday he had become an important Barca player, with several important goals and assists. He’s assisted more than he’s scored, that has been a change to his game.
If he’s taken attention away from Neymar and Messi, then that helps Barca.
Luis joined a club in transition who didn’t win anything last year. This season, they look better and he’s been a success.
You might think that Barca didn’t need a goalscorer, but Luis brings something different to their team.
Different goals and assists because he’s a different type of player from Neymar and Messi. He’s a team player, too, one who values an assist.
The strikers all get on well, which is important and not always the case, but it doesn’t surprise me that three South Americans are friends.
Luis is from Salto, right on the border with Argentina and not far from Brazil. It’s a city of only 100,000, but he and Edinson Cavani are both from Salto.
Is there another city so small which has produced two world-class strikers? Pedro Virgilio Rocha, a legendary Uruguayan player who played with my father, also came from Salto.
I knew Luis had great potential from when I first played against him in a warm-up game when he was in Uruguay’s Under 20s as they prepared for their World Cup in Canada.
I could see his talent, he was outstanding then, but I didn’t properly speak to him until he made his full Uruguay debut.
He was a little shy, as players are when they join a new team, but I could see that he was a nice guy.
When I first started speaking to him I could see that he was polite, respectful and keen to learn. We had a very good connection on and off the pitch.
He’s had major ups and downs in his career and I’ve seen some close at hand.
In the 2010 World Cup, he came to me. He was down and frustrated because he’d not scored in the opening two games against France and South Africa.
Yet he was playing well and contributing to our success, that was the most important thing. He’d see that now, but he didn’t then. He thought that goals were the only thing that mattered.
I encouraged him and he scored in our third game, the only goal against Mexico.
People often ask me what Luis is like. I tell them that he’s a fighter on the pitch who wants to win all the time. He’ll argue and do everything he can within the laws of he game to win.
He is not a player who thinks that football should be played by men wearing white gloves; he knows it can be a hard and aggressive game.
Off the field? He’s a quiet family man with his wife Sofia and daughter. He’s close to his brother, too.
He spent a lot of time with them at the start of this season because he couldn’t play for his club and country.
Not playing could help him at the end of the season. He’ll be fresher because he hasn’t travelled so much or played as many games as other players and Barca, rather than Uruguay (he is still serving an international ban), should benefit from that.
DIEGO SAYS WATCH OUT FOR....
Most leagues are taking an international break from football, but not in Argentina. Almost all their national players work in Europe so there’s no point stopping the domestic league. Boca Juniors play Estudiantes this weekend, two teams who have been South American and world champions. Boca remain one of the best teams in South America and were the first to qualify for the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores. While their rivals River Plate struggle, Boca have won all four group games so far. Estudiantes, with Juan Sebastian Veron as chairman, are a renewed force. They have also done well in the Copa Libertadores, which they won in 2009. Striker Guido Carrillo, 23, is a big No 9 who will do well in Europe. He knows how to play in the box, he turns and heads well. A really good player. Watch out for him.
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