When Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi weren’t scoring goals for Barcelona, they used to often spend time together at their nearby homes on the Mediterranean coast while taking a break.
Suárez will return to Camp Nou with Atlético Madrid on Saturday, hoping to deal a big blow to his former club’s championship aspirations in the Spanish league.
Barcelona sold the 34-year-old Suárez to Atlético Madrid on the cheap at the start of the season, owing to mounting debts and a dire need to cut costs.
For Atlético, the contract, which may be worth up to 6 million euros ($7 million), was a steal. Suárez’s world-class finishing touch provided Atlético coach Diego Simeone with the goal scorer he had been looking for since Antoine Griezmann switched clubs to Barcelona.
Suárez was unable to attend the teams’ first meeting in November due to the coronavirus. Atlético Madrid won 1-0 thanks to Yannick Carrasco’s goal and the team’s smothering defense, which helped them create a lead that they are now clinging to with four rounds remaining. A day before second-placed Atlético faces third-placed Barcelona. On a weekend that threatens to shake up the closest championship race in years, Real Madrid hosts fourth-placed Sevilla.
Both Madrid and Barcelona are two points clear of Atlético, while Sevilla is four points back.
Suárez left Barcelona as the club’s third-highest goalscorer, behind César Rodrguez (232) and Lionel Messi (198). (670). Since joining Barcelona from Liverpool in 2014, he helped the club win 13 titles. It includes four Spanish league titles and the Champions League in 2015.
Messi made a media outcry when Barcelona released Suárez, who had expressed a desire to continue.
On Friday, Barcelona took a conciliatory stance against Suárez. He had scored 21 goals for the Catalan club in the 2019-20 season.
“We used to be teammates. Today, we are adversaries. We will all be friends.” Barcelona wrote on Twitter, alongside a picture of Suárez hugging Messi and other former teammates.
The Uruguay striker has established himself as Atlético Madrid’s main asset since his transfer to the Spanish capital. With 19 goals in the season, he leads the side.