Five Things to Know About Uruguay's Luis Suárez

Five Things to Know About Uruguay's Luis Suárez originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Whether it’s his talent or antics, Luis Suárez knows how to find the soccer spotlight.

The 35-year-old Uruguayan striker has been one of the most prolific talents in the sport over the last decade-plus. He has been playing at the top level of European club soccer and on Uruguay’s national team for 15 years, scoring countless goals to go along with team and individual honors.

His on-field behavior over that stretch has been nothing short of infamous, especially at the World Cup. His first World Cup appearance in 2010 featured a controversial handball on the goal line that ultimately helped Uruguay advance past Ghana and into the semifinals. Four years later, Suárez earned a nine-match international ban, along with a four-month suspension from any soccer-related activity, after biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during a World Cup group stage match. It was Suárez’s third biting incident of his career.

Suárez earned an eight-match ban early in his Liverpool tenure for a different reason. He was accused of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra during a match in 2011 and was handed his suspension after an FA investigation.

Suárez has gone onward with his career since that ban, as well as the 2014 World Cup biting incident. After dominating with Liverpool and later alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar on FC Barcelona, Suárez played for Atlético Madrid through the end of the 2021-22 season. He has since returned to his home country to play for Nacional in the Uruguayan Primera División.

Now, Suárez is heading to the scene of two of his most notorious incidents: the World Cup. He will be representing Uruguay in the competition for the fourth time. The country advanced out of the group stage all three times, most recently falling to the eventual champions, France, in the 2018 quarterfinals. Uruguay is in Group H for this year’s event and will face South Korea, Portugal and, once again, Ghana.

Before Suárez steps on the field in Qatar, here are some more facts about his career and personal life:

Suárez helped lead Atlético Madrid to La Liga title in 2020-21

Suárez played a major role in leading Atlético Madrid to its 11th domestic league championship. He was the fourth-leading goalscorer in La Liga during the 2020-21 campaign. None of those goals were more important than his go-ahead strike in the 67th minute against Real Valladolid on the final matchday of the season to help Atleti clinch the league title.

That championship came in Suárez’s first season with the club and was the fifth La Liga crown of his career. The first four came with Barça, where he played from 2014 to 2020.

Suárez leads South American players in all-time goals during World Cup qualifiers

With a bicycle kick goal against Chile on March 29, Suárez surpassed Messi to become South America’s all-time leading scorer in World Cup qualifiers.

Suárez now has 29 goals across 62 qualifying matches, while Messi is at 28 goals in 60 such contests. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (36) and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski (30) are the only active players in the world with more goals in World Cup qualifiers.

Suárez won two European Golden Shoe Awards

Suárez’s scoring prowess has been evident in club play, as well.

Though his 21 goals in 2020-21 led to a La Liga title, they are far from the most Suárez has scored in a season. He has led all players in top division European national leagues twice in his career. In 2013-14, Suárez scored 31 goals with Liverpool to tie Ronaldo’s output with Real Madrid, and the two players shared the European Golden Shoe Award. Suárez earned the award for himself in 2015-16 with Barça after netting 40 goals in league games.

As far as individual hardware at the club level, Suárez also became the first non-European athlete to earn the PFA Player of the Year honor, which is given to the top player in English soccer each year, in 2013-14.

Suárez is nicknamed “El Pistolero”

Suárez’s nickname is “El Pistolero,” which translates to “The Gunfighter.”

There is no specific origin for the nickname.

Suárez married childhood sweetheart, has three kids

Suárez is married to Sofia Balbi. The two met when Suárez was 15 years old, and the couple has three children: Delfina, Benjamin and Lautaro. Delfina is an anagram of Anfield, which is Liverpool’s home stadium.
Suárez said his signature goal celebration is dedicated to his family. He kisses three fingers, representing his three kids, before the tattoo on his right hand for his wife.