Why Luis Suarez Is the Most Improved Player in the Barcelona Squad in 2015/16

Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2016

FC Barcelona's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring against Atletico Madrid during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

When all was said and done, after the dust settled following Barcelona's treble triumph at the end of the 2014-15 season, few would've argued Luis Suarez didn't have a good season.

In fact, he was arguably the catalyst for Barcelona to lurch into gear, winning La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League in his first season at the Camp Nou.

Given Suarez was the man who broke free of Real Madrid's defence and fired past Iker Casillas to win Barcelona the Clasico in March, you could hardly say his year was a disaster.

Note too it was Suarez who scored both Barcelona's goals away at Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League, going on to score the goal that sent his team ahead against Juventus in the final, the second of their 3-1 win.

And yet it is indisputable he is Barcelona's most improved player this season from last. That is a terrifying thought.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

It must be remembered Suarez struggled for a long period of last season.

For one, he was frozen out until late October because of a FIFA suspension for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.

The Uruguayan made his Barcelona debut against Real Madrid in a 3-1 defeat, their first of the season. That was followed by a 1-0 defeat at home by Celta Vigo.

Next was a trip to face his old side Ajax, but the hitman was still struggling for form and fitness. The game passed him by, along with subsequent clashes against Almeria and Sevilla.

He finally scored his first goal against APOEL FC in a 4-0 win and later contributed goals against Paris Saint-Germain, Cordoba and Elche.

Three goals in his first 12 games wasn't particularly promising, but when he scored against Atletico Madrid in La Liga in January 2015, things began to turn—for him and for Barcelona.

He was struggling on the right wing, but eventually he and Messi changed positions, and both players benefitted, not to mention the team as a whole.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 30:  Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on January 30, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Capa
Alex Caparros/Getty Images

In the end, he finished up with a respectable 25 goals in 43 games. But with the exception of the aforementioned strikes against Madrid, City and Juventus, he didn't settle any games.

This season has been a different story. Not only has Suarez been steadily improving, but he's also taken a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.

His goals are winning Barcelona crucial points and trophies. He scored in the 5-4 win over Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup, as well as five of Barcelona's six goals in Japan as they were crowned Club World Cup champions in December.

Suarez scored the winner against Athletic Club on the first day of the season, instant revenge over the team that crushed Barcelona 4-0 in Bilbao in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

He netted Barcelona's only goal away in Rome, earning a 1-1 draw. He grabbed the winner at home against Bayer Leverkusen in a game his side had looked like losing.

When Lionel Messi got injured after a few minutes against Las Palmas in September, it was Suarez who scored both goals in Barcelona's eventual 2-1 win, and he traded off goals with Neymar after that to keep them alive on all fronts.

Suarez struck a hat-trick against Eibar in the 3-1 win in October and the opener against Getafe in what was a tough away game on Halloween.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 17:  Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's sixth goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club de Bilbao  at Camp Nou on January 17, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ram
David Ramos/Getty Images

He fired home Barcelona's only goal in the 1-1 draw with Valencia a few weeks after scoring a brace at the Bernabeu as Barcelona thrashed Real Madrid 4-0 on Nov. 21—a game that showed how far both he and his club have come since he made his debut.

Suarez's latest contribution was to break free of Jose Gimenez's shackles and fire past Jan Oblak to seal a fine Barcelona comeback against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, putting his team three points clear at the top of La Liga with a game in hand.

It was his 31st goal of the season, far surpassing the 25 he managed in 2014-15. And there is still a long way to go.

Barcelona are competing on three fronts, with Valencia at home in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg up next on Wednesday. Given Suarez's new-found penchant for scoring big, decisive goals, he could easily be the man who settles it.