How Luis Suarez Can Win the 2014 Ballon d'Or
The 2013 Ballon D'Or, or European Footballer of the Year, is announced on Monday in Zurich, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery the nominated trio up for the award.
There is one player who isn't on the final shortlist but had an equally remarkable 2013 as Ronaldo, Messi and Ribery—Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan was in the headlines for right and wrong reasons throughout the year, but his performances on the pitch led to his club captain Steven Gerrard voting for him for the award.
"I think everyone knows how much I rate him [Suarez], I think we are very lucky to have him and we have to enjoy him while he's here," explained Gerrard to The Liverpool Echo.
"For me he is one of the top four or five players in the world for sure."
So what will it take for Suarez to make the next step up and become one of the top three players in the world for 2014? We take a look...
Keep Scoring Goals
Let's start with the obvious one—scoring goals, something Suarez has certainly been doing in 2013 and will need to continue to do if he is to win the accolade.
2013 saw Suarez score 33 goals—in 33 games—as per LFC History. An impressive strike rate of one goal per game.
There have been three hat-tricks, against Wigan, West Brom and Norwich—the latter of which of course saw the 26-year-old score four.
That Norwich quadruple epitomised all that's good about Luis Suarez; an incredible first from 40 yards, followed up by a clever finish from a corner, a mesmeric dribble and finish past three defenders, all topped off with what is now becoming a trademark free-kick.
Such is Suarez's free-kick prowess now, the Anfield crowd are almost expecting a goal when a free-kick is awarded within Suarez territory. Free-kicks for Suarez are like a penalty, you're disappointed when he doesn't score one!
Suarez has clearly put a lot of practice into perfecting the art of free-kick taking and it's paying off, taking him to the next level. Such hours spent on the training ground are what separate the good from the great.
Impress at the World Cup
A good way to get the attention of the watching world is, of course, to perform on the world stage.
This summer provides the perfect platform for Suarez to do so, with the World Cup in Brazil.
Uruguay have a strong squad, Suarez flanked by Edinson Cavani up front being the focal point, and could surprise a few people in Brazil where the conditions will favour them as a South American side.
Uruguay made the semi-finals in 2010, where Suarez was again in the headlines for good and bad. He picked up the man of the match award and scored one of the goals of the tournament against South Korea in the last 16 match.
But his infamous handball against Ghana ensured that is what he will always be remembered for in South Africa.
Should Suarez be able to create positive headlines in Brazil, it would certainly help his chances of a 2014 Ballon D'Or.
No Disciplinary Issues
2013 saw Suarez again blot his copybook with another act of indiscipline—adding to his notoriety and driving more negative headlines.
The infamous bite on Branislav Ivanovic was indefensible and resulted in the 10-game ban that saw him miss the start of the 2013/14 season.
Since his return from suspension, Suarez has shown a new side, a much improved, calmer side.
“There was a lot of self-reflection and he probably thought he couldn’t have gone any lower,” manager Brendan Rodgers told The Telegraph.
“On the pitch everyone can see the maturity and his level of performance speaks for itself."
Such behaviour must continue if Suarez is to push for the 2014 Ballon D'or. There can be no wrong moves or rushes of blood to the head.
Be a Good Role Model
Since his return, and part of his improved behaviour, Suarez has been showing great maturity on the pitch.
With Liverpool's young side—certainly one of the youngest in the Premier League according to statistics via Transfermarkt—Suarez, at age 26, needs to be a positive role model on those around him.
Raheem Sterling is just 19, Philippe Coutinho 21, Daniel Sturridge is relatively young at 24. Suarez needs to lead by example to aid the development of those around him.
Play in the Champions League: With Liverpool
Of course, another stain on Suarez's 2013 was his summer flirtations with a move to Real Madrid.
What Suarez really needs is stability and the best way to obtain that is by achieving Champions League qualification at Anfield and remaining at the club.
Suarez is clearly a player whose talents deserve to be on Europe's elite stage and by being in the Champions League it would greatly heighten his chances of a Ballon D'Or.
Should Suarez and Liverpool continue their current form, they will finish in the top four of the Premier League—according to statistical theory by Marco Lopes of This Is Anfield.
Suarez can then head off to the World Cup this summer safe in the knowledge that he will be playing where he wants and needs to be next season.
Hope Messi and Ronaldo Don't Have a Good Year
Of course, there are certain elements to a Ballon D'Or that are out of Suarez's hands, just ask Ronaldo.
Should Messi or Ronaldo light up the World Cup and continue their sensational form, they will be the frontrunners for the award again in 2014, rightly so.
But should Messi and Argentina fail to perform in Argentina, the truly world stage thus far eluding the Barcelona star, it would help Suarez and other Ballon D'Or nominees.
If Ronaldo picks up the 2013 award on Monday, as many are predicting, that will also go in Suarez's favour as the Portuguese attacker will finally have won the award he so craves, leaving the door open for a new winner next year.
Ronaldo scored an incredible 55 goals in 2013, as per Sky Sports, so anything less than that incredible number will be viewed as a decline in form.
Messi scored 37 for Barcelona, just four more than Suarez's total despite the Uruguayan missing a large chunk through suspension.
Ribery hit just 16 for Bayern Munich, but did win five trophies—FA Cup success with Liverpool is another area that would help Suarez's case.
Suarez has the ability to win the 2014 Ballon D'Or, some of it will be out of his control, but as explained herein, a lot of it he can at least have a large part in.