Liverpool: Is Luis Suarez One of Europe's Best Strikers?

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Liverpool: Is Luis Suarez One of Europe's Best Strikers?
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There was a peculiar occurrence in La Liga this weekend: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao all failed to score. The last time this triumvirate of Ballon d'Or candidates couldn't muster a goal between them in a game week was October 26th, 2011.

In the Premier League, meanwhile, a striker who has not even had a sniff of the Ballon d'Or shortlist scored one of the best goals of the season, deftly controlling a hopeful hoofed long ball before taking it around the goalkeeper and into the net.

That man, of course, is Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan forward who is responsible for seven of Liverpool's 13 league goals this season. His world-class display in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Newcastle drew praise from pundits and Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers, who described the 25-year-old as "unplayable."

The Northern Irish coach also drew comparisons with Leo Messi, as Suarez is relishing a Spanish-style "false nine" role for The Reds this season. Reports the BBC:

"He plays the false nine role like Messi does for Barcelona where he moves freely and others have to get in behind him to penetrate," Rodgers told Sky.

"Suarez's goal was brilliant. He is a world-class striker."

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There's no question that Suarez is in rude health, but can we compare his abilities with the Ronaldos, Messis or Zlatans of this world?

With seven league goals and 10 in all competitions––and a further seven goals in Uruguay's World Cup qualification campaign––the Liverpool forward is certainly earning his keep. He is, however, a little off the pace in the context of Europe's most prolific strikers.

The aforementioned trio of Falcao, Ronaldo and Messi have 10, 11 and 13 league goals respectively. Robin van Persie has found the net eight times in the league. Milan's Stephan El Shaarawy is outperforming him domestically, as are Mainz forward Adám Szalai, Vitesse Arnhem's Bonno Wilfried and a host of others.

The perception of Suarez as one of the finest forwards playing in Europe is also tainted by some of the more polarizing aspects of his character.

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The world was introduced to him at the 2010 World Cup, when he took a silver bullet for Uruguay by deliberately handling a goal-bound shot in the quarterfinal match with Ghana. He has since earned bans for biting opponents and using racist language and is renowned for his predilection for simulation––something Suarez has openly parodied himself.

If being one of the greatest players in Europe means steering clear of controversy and unsavoury displays of character, Suarez does not appear to pass the litmus test.

If we are to judge him on his ability to find the net and terrorise defences, however, the 25-year-old is certainly working his way into the great player debate.

Suarez was Liverpool's only real threat during the Newcastle match, a fact that Brendan Rogers effectively acknowledged by pledging to bring in more support in the January transfer window.

If the extra support comes in and his form continues, the Uruguayan should not be ignored on the next Ballon d'Or shortlist.

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