It may not be the indignity suffered by the Brazilian Ronaldo, whose name is now accompanied by the disparaging suffix ‘Fat’, but another giant of football’s history has had their name stolen in recent years.
Luis Suárez – maternal family name Miramontes if you want to avoid confusion – was born in A Coruña, Northern Spain, in 1935. It was hardly the most auspicious of times to be born; the country’s civil war starting the following year and brought with it a lack of food and harshening of conditions generally, but Suárez was destined to fight through the hardships and become a Spanish legend.
El Arquitecto, as Suárez became known due to the fact he was able to construct a game from foundations to spire with his otherworldly vision and elegant style, moved from inside forward to the deep-lying playmaker in a career that left its mark on the sport like a bite from his namesake.
Starting off at local club Deportivo La Coruña, it wasn’t long before Suárez was snapped up by Barcelona. A Catalan delegate had been sent to watch Deportivo take on Sporting Gijon in order to monitor another target, but was that impressed by Luisito a deal for both players was arranged.
The diminutive midfielder helped reinvigorate a Barcelona side that had suffered from a decade without winning the league, a feat unlikely to be repeated even if the inept Luis Enrique remained at the club for the next 10 years. It was thanks to their blonde architect that Barcelona won La Liga in two consecutive seasons, and his impact was recognised when he won the Ballon d’Or in 1960.
In fact, Suárez surprisingly remains the only Spaniard to have won football’s top individual accolade; Spanish citizen Alfredo Di Stefano of course won it twice, including in the year previous to his club rival, but The Blonde Arrow only moved to the Iberian peninsula from native Argentina in his late 20s.
With such incredible form, it was inevitable that many top clubs would look to sign Luisito, especially given the fact he hadn’t really settled in Catalonia despite his impact on the team.
Internazionale was the club lucky enough to secure his services, although he wasn’t cheap. The Italians had to smash the world transfer record to get their man, paying a 250 million lire fee that eclipsed the 165m paid by Juventus to sign Omar Sivori from River Plate.
It took only two seasons for Suárez to guide his new side to the Serie A title, winning the league in the 1962-63 season and following it up in both 1964-65 and 1965-66. Add to these successes international glory – winning both the European Cup in 1963-64 and 1964-65 as well as the Intercontinental Cup in ’64 and ’65 – and it’s easy to justify the amount of money spent on the architect.
As monumental as these accomplishments were, Suárez’s finest moment probably came with Spain. In 1964 – the same year he conquered Europe with Inter – Suárez inspired La Roja as they won their first ever European Championship. The playmaker created both Spanish goals in a final played on home soil in the Santiago Bernabeu, and was named in the team of the tournament, becoming the first player to be champion of Europe in both club and international football simultaneously in the process.
Suárez also went on to play for Sampdoria and carved out a respectable career in management and coaching, but will always be remembered for his time as a player and the unparalleled success he enjoyed. It is hoped that his legacy is not overshadowed by a certain Uruguayan who for all his brilliance has yet to achieve anything like the original Luis Suárez.
You’d be forgiven for thinking only one Luis Suarez has played for Barcelona, much like we will let you off for not remembering these lads pulled on the iconic Barca kit!