Luis Suarez's Career so Far in 20 Pictures

Mark JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2013

Luis Suarez's Career so Far in 20 Pictures

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    Is there a better forward in the world right now than Luis Suarez? Probably not.

    A stunning 19 goals in 12 Premier League games this season mark the Uruguayan out as a simply phenomenal talent, and one who looks determined to drag Liverpool up to the very top of the European game with him.

    The long road to superstardom has contained a few twists and turns for the 26-year-old, but it has always been compelling viewing.

    Here we let 20 pictures tell the story of a truly remarkable modern-day football great.

The Early Days in Uruguay

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    Suarez came through the ranks at Uruguayan side Nacional, where he once headbutted a referee at the age of 15.

    That menacing streak would never truly leave him, but the goalscoring talents he developed there wouldn't leave either.

    The then teenage forward scored 10 goals in 27 games as he helped Nacional win the 2005/06 Uruguayan League title in his first season as a professional.

    Europe beckoned.

Groningen and an International Debut

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    When his move came, it wasn't an altogether obvious one.

    Suarez joined Dutch club Groningen in order to be closer to his girlfriend in 2006, and he made the transition to the European club fairly easily, scoring 10 times in 29 games as he helped his club finish in mid-table.

    Once more disciplinary issues were haunting him, but he'd done enough to impress plenty of scouts for all across the country and beyond.

    The big boys were now circling.

Off to Ajax

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    In the Netherlands, they don't come any bigger than Ajax.

    Following protracted negotiations Suarez signed a five-year contract with the Amsterdam giants in 2007, immediately striking up a prolific partnership with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar that led to him scoring 50 goals in his first two years at the club.

    He was about to outdo himself though.

Becoming a Prolific Goalscorer

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    The 2009/10 season was when Suarez really burst onto the global stage though.

    With Huntelaar now at Real Madrid and after captain Thomas Vermaelen moved to Ajax, Suarez was given a central striking role and skipper's armband by new boss Martin Jol, and he responded with a stunning 49 goals in 48 matches as Ajax won the Dutch Cup.

    He won the Ajax Player of the Year award for a second season in a row, and was also named as the Eredivisie Player of the Year.

Starring in the World Cup

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    Many felt that he now had the chance to move on to one of Europe's premier leagues in the same manner that many of his teammates had, with the 2010 World Cup viewed as the perfect stage for him to shine.

    In Uruguay's second round match against South Korea in a rainy Port Elizabeth, that is exactly what he did, with Suarez's two goals―the second stunning―shooting his side into the quarter-finals.

    He was about to become even more notorious when he got there...

The Johannesburg Incident

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    The dying seconds of a World Cup quarter-final has to be considered as a pretty opportune moment to do something that would make you a hero back home. It's not usually like this.

    Suarez handled Dominic Adiyiah's goalbound header in the closing moments of extra-time to give Ghana a penalty, but after the forward was sent off, Asamoah Gyan missed the resultant spot kick and Uruguay won on penalties, much to the delight of their now suspended forward.

    Ghana and much of the football world screamed at the injustice of it all, but Suarez and Uruguay didn't seem to care.

Biting Bakkal

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    Now known throughout the world for that handball incident, Suarez hit the headlines again later in the same year when he astonishingly bit opponent Otman Bakkal on the shoulder during a match against PSV Eindhoven.

    He was eventually banned for seven matches, during which the prospect of leaving the Amsterdam club became a lot more real as Liverpool put in a £22.8 million bid for him.

    After 111 goals in 159 games for Ajax, the bite proved to be his last act for the club.

Signing for Liverpool

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    The winds of change had swept through Anfield in January 2011, and Suarez was right at the heart of it.

    Unpopular manager Roy Hodgson left and was replaced by club legend Kenny Dalglish, who then oversaw the staggering £50 million sale of star forward Fernando Torres to Chelsea and the purchases of Suarez and Newcastle's Andy Carroll for a combined £57.8 million.

    Carroll's price tag meant that he was the one under more pressure to deliver, but it would be Suarez who'd catch the eye from the very beginning.

Scoring on His Reds Debut

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    After being named as a substitute for his first match with the club at home to Stoke, Suarez took no time in announcing himself to his new fans.

    He'd been on the pitch for approximately 16 minutes when he raced onto a through ball from Dirk Kuyt, rounded goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and rolled a shot towards the Kop end goal.

    A combination of Andy Wilkinson and the post couldn't keep in out, and Suarez was in business already.

Taking on Manchester United

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    If supporters wanted to wait and see what Suarez could do in the bigger games before making any judgements though, then they weren't to be disappointed.

    Just over a month into his Reds career, Suarez sparkled in a 3-1 win over Manchester United at Anfield in which he had a hand in two of Dirk Kuyt's three goals.

    The first was particularly special, with his stunning, twisting, turning run taking out almost the entire United defence before his square ball was tapped in by Kuyt.

Winning the Copa America

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    To cap off his encouraging start to Liverpool life, Suarez was then one of the main inspirations behind Uruguay winning a record 15th Copa America title in the summer of 2011.

    The forward scored four goals―including the opener in the final win over Paraguay―and was named player of the tournament.

    High on that success, a big season in England beckoned...

The Patrice Evra Affair

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    Both Suarez's and Liverpool's worlds caved in in October 2011, when a spat with Manchester United's Patrice Evra in a match at Anfield turned into much more than just that.

    Suarez was accused of racially abusing the full-back, a claim that he repeatedly denied and one that would go in front of an FA panel.

    Backed into a corner following the apparently reckless actions of their star forward, Liverpool were going to come out fighting...

'Those' T-Shirts

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    They publicly backed Suarez's version of events, most vividly when the team wore t-shirts to warm up in before a match at Wigan.

    The support proved to be misguided though, and when Suarez was found guilty of the charge by an FA panel, he was banned for eight games and fined £40,000.

    In the eyes of most English football supporters he'd become Public Enemy No. 1.

Handshake-Gate

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    After coming back in a match at home to Tottenham, Suarez was soon pitched into combat in the lion's den.

    A trip to Old Trafford saw him come face-to-face with Evra once more, with the non-handshake between the pair at the beginning of the match only serving to add to the poisonous atmosphere emanating from the stands.

    Liverpool lost 2-1 despite a Suarez goal, and the forward later apologised for his part in an issue which many hoped would now just go away.

A Wembley Winner

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    There were soon to be happier times though, and Suarez picked up what is so far his only trophy in England when Liverpool beat Cardiff City on penalties to lift the League Cup in 2012.

    The forward didn't score in the final, but he'd been a key part of a squad which had gone for the tournament from the very beginning due to their lack of European football that season.

    Plenty saw the success as a chance for the club to kick on and improve, and Suarez seemed as though he was paying attention.

The Form of His Life?

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    Now under the stewardship of new boss Brendan Rodgers, Suarez exploded into life in the 2012/13 season, and seemingly began scoring goals for fun.

    Strikes such as the one against Newcastle last November showcased a player who seemingly had the world at his feet, and although he was playing in a young team which displayed inconsistencies as they tried to find their feet, the form of the forward could not be questioned.

    He was Liverpool's talisman by now, and only another fall from grace was going to change that.

Biting Ivanovic

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    Then one duly arrived.

    With echoes of the Bakkal incident which occurred just before Suarez left Ajax for Liverpool, the forward mindlessly sunk his teeth into the shoulder of Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield in April.

    The incident went undetected and Suarez stayed on the pitch to score a 97th minute equaliser―his 30th goal of the season―but trouble was around the corner, and he was eventually given a huge 10-game ban.

    Many wondered if they'd see him in a red shirt again.

Eyeing the Exit Door

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    Including, it seemed, Suarez himself, with the forward spending much of the summer of 2013 encouraging links to both Arsenal and Real Madrid whilst pleading to be allowed to leave Liverpool.

    Despite the move away looking inevitable at several stages, the Reds stayed strong and obdurate in the face of Suarez's demands, with the club refusing to allow their key man to leave and especially not to a rival such as Arsenal, who had put in a baffling bid of £40 million plus £1 in the mistaken belief that would get their man.

    The summer transfer window passed, and against all odds Suarez was still a Reds player.

Back at Anfield Again

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    And when he came back, he did so with a bang.

    Typically his return came in a League Cup clash at Old Trafford, before he marked his Premier League comeback with two goals in a win at Sunderland.

    His step back onto the Anfield pitch for a competitive contest was always going to be anticipated though, and sure enough he scored on his return in a match against Crystal Palace after showing off his newborn son Benjamin pre-match.

Unstoppable

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    Right now, Suarez is in the kind of form that makes his 2012/13 displays seem average.

    He has a stunning 19 goals in 12 Premier League appearances, 10 in his last four, and 14 in his last six at Anfield.

    The current injury suffered by Steven Gerrard and the fact that Daniel Agger is out of favour also means that he's been installed as captain too, and it is possible to see Suarez playing with a smile on his face for what truly seems like the first time in his Liverpool career, which he's now signalled his intent to prolong by signing a new four-and-a-half year contract.

    If he sees out the end of that, then imagine how many other great images we'll get to see?