Luis Suarez isn’t the most popular footballer in England. His antics, including racially abusing Patrice Evra and taking a bite out of Branislav Ivanovic, have seen to that. He is, however, one of the most technically gifted players to have ever graced the Premier League and boasts a goalscoring record this season that if maintained would be the best ever by some margin. The Uruguayan currently has 22 goals in just 15 appearances, good for an average of 1.46 goals per game as he’s shot his way to the top of the goalscoring charts. To put Suarez’s season in perspective the best ratio of goals-to-games achieved by a golden boot winner before this year is 0.91, a mark hit by Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2007/8 season and Didier Drogba in Chelsea’s 2009/10 campaign. That means that Suarez’s 2013/14 campaign is 0.55 goals per game better than the next best goalscoring season in Premier League history. If that seems like a wide gap, that’s because it is.Scoring 0.55 goals per game would actually have won you the golden boot in three Premier League seasons – 1992/3, 1997/8 and 2008/9.
While it’s true that statistics fail to tell the whole story in sport, particularly football, Suarez’s game extends far beyond a few numbers you can track down on the internet. Anyone who saw his four goals against Norwich in early December will attest to that after the 26-year old scored a superb collection of goals including a 40-yard volley, a scintillating solo effort and an inch perfect free-kick. During one game against West Ham last season Suarez placed the ball through the legs of the same defender, the unfortunate James Collins, on no less than four occasions. He scored a header from outside the penalty area against West Bromwich Albion earlier this season, another free-kick against Hull City on New Years day and a brace at Stoke earlier this afternoon. There’s seemingly no stopping Suarez this season and the range of goals he’s scoring is vast and almost completely indefensible.
One criticism levied at Suarez is that he hasn’t been good enough for long enough to be considered the best, or one of the best, players in the world. However if you analyse his record throughout his career he’s always been a prolific goalscorer, not to mention an incredibly gifted team player who brings teammates into play through his excellent vision and range of passing. In his final full season with Ajax Suarez notched 35 times in 33 games, while last season with Liverpool he scored 23 times in 33 appearances. Had his discipline not let him down against Chelsea he’d have been perfectly positioned to challenge Robin Van Persie for the Premier League’s golden boot and Gareth Bale for player of the year honours. Suarez’s career league record reads 161 goals in 259 games, truly the stats of a natural goal scorer.
Of course, competition for the worlds best player is fierce and with football being a game of opinions there is no right or wrong answer. Arguments can be made for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, although Messi’s star may have dimmed slightly this season as he’s experienced trouble with injuries for the first prolonged period of his career. It’s also worth noting that those two players are in the same eleven every week as some of the most creative players in world football. Messi is the grateful recipient of passes from Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas – a trio who’ve been mainstays of the dominant Spain team from the past decade. This begs another question: if Spain can be so successful without Messi then is he as indispensible to the Catalans as the duo of Xavi and Iniesta? Ronaldo has also had the benefit of being supplied by some world-class players while with Madrid: Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria to name but a few. He was also lucky enough to play with fantastic players while at Manchester United, a luxury not afforded to Suarez with Liverpool. Phillipe Coutinho is a bright talent and both Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling have flashed potential this season. But to put any Liverpool player in the same bracket as the aforementioned Barcelona and Real Madrid names is premature and even slightly ludicrous. Maybe you think other players are worthy of discussion as the worlds premier footballer. Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery have both enjoyed a late career flourish with Bayern Munich, while the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic certainly has his admirers. Gareth Bale is the worlds most expensive player, while Carlton Cole has also been in good form lately and has three goals in his last five games.
Yet as good as all of those players are none are enjoying a season quite like Liverpool’s number seven. Don’t let your perception of Luis Suarez the human being get in the way of your enjoyment of Luis Suarez the footballer. He’s a great player enjoying a great season – for England’s sake let’s hope he doesn’t have a great World Cup.