The truth about Luis Suarez, by those who know him best
Suarez’s perception in Britain
DF No, the way he’s perceived in Britain isn’t fair, he's not a cheat. Football is tough. It's not a sport for men who want to wear white gloves. It's tough, passionate and competitive. It helps that Luis is tough too.
PG I think that, to some extent, everything has been exaggerated. He’s done both good and bad things, but in England people have tried to look for the smallest detail for the counterpoint or alternative argument to a situation or story. Not many English journalists ever met him. He didn’t necessarily express himself easily in English, so being able to talk about general life was always difficult. When Luis is in an arena where he can express himself well, in his own language, he doesn’t have such problems to convey himself.
DF Against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup, he handballed and he was punished because it was a penalty and he was sent off. He also had to miss the next game against the Netherlands.
Remember the Ghana player also had the opportunity to score, but he missed. They are the rules of football, as interpreted correctly by the referee in that game. Both teams had the opportunity to win in the penalty shootout. We held our nerve and deserved to win.
2013/14 Liverpool season
DF I spoke to him at various points of last season. He loved playing at Liverpool, the fans and England.
PG I’ve had so many highlights with Luis. Quite apart from all his goals, and his performances in general on the pitch, his move to Liverpool from Ajax, basically all of last season will always stay with me. Winning the individual prizes, too. That stands out.
DF He was very disappointed that Liverpool didn't win the league and I don't blame him. He was the best player in England last season and deserved something. But in the end, with everything that happened, I think it was probably good for everyone that he made a change.
The 2014 World Cup
PG To be honest, last summer was as difficult to deal with as the previous one and the Arsenal deal that never happened. Dealing with the suspension from the Giorgio Chiellini bite with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the hearing and our appeal, was very hard.
DF We didn't know that he had bitten Chiellini. It was only afterwards and it was a bit of a shock. There had been incidents with Luis before and we knew the reaction after them, so we expected more of the same. We knew that wouldn't be good for Uruguay in the rest of the tournament and beyond.
SB In Uruguay, the level of support that Luis receives is massive, maybe not from everyone, but it’s huge. A lot of people back him, whatever he does. It’s a wonderful thing to experience that level of support.
DF People back in Uruguay were outraged because the punishment was too high. I agreed with them; it was. People make mistakes in life and they learn from them. I know that Luis recognises that he made a mistake, he apologised and will learn from that. Everybody in the country loves him.
And that's a nice feeling for any one person to have in any country. There were times when he needed that support. There's not many of us, we need to stick together.
PG Over the summer, there was one betting company, who came up with the most bizarre offer I think I’ve ever received for a player. You can imagine the sort of thing they were asking about [mimes a bite]. Creative people are very... Er, creative! [Laughs]
DF Luis did wrong and we didn't need to tell him that, but from the moment he got the punished everybody was behind him. He went from being to villain to someone we felt we should defend. Not a hero, but someone who needed support. The way he was forced to leave the team hotel in Brazil was wrong.
SB It was difficult to deal with, but Luis and I had experienced it before in Uruguay. What was it like? It was, it’s difficult to explain, maybe stronger is the right word? I don’t want to say worse, that makes it sound like Luis doesn’t have people’s support back home, but the amount of attention on us was incredible.
SB We soon came back to Barcelona, because it’s our refuge. The press attention was huge. We were staying in my parents’ house and they really weren’t used to so many people being around, all of the time. By the time Luis was talking to Barcelona, he was sneaking out of the house because there so many people. It was crazy! You couldn’t move outside the house. Some days we’d go to my sister’s house, just to give my parents a break from all the journalists and photographers! They couldn’t leave their own house.
Two Luis Suarez(es)
DF You want me to describe his character? On or off the field? Because there's a big difference. He's a fighter on the pitch, someone who wants to win all the time. Off it he's a quiet family man.
PG Luis is a very humble, genuine guy. He’s funny, which hasn’t always come across, He’s clever too. This is Luis. On the pitch, he’s a winner. He never gives up. Gives everything for his team. Look, the vast majority of footballers are one thing on the pitch and something totally different off it.