Heavily rumoured in the Dutch media, and reported in the Independent last week, Chelsea are interested in signing the Ajax striker Luis Suarez, but exactly who is he? Suarez is seen to be the hottest prospect in Uruguayan football and he has established himself very quickly in the European game. Suarez only made his professional debut in 2005 for Nacional, one of Uruguay’s biggest clubs, and he proceeded to excite the Uruguayan crowds with his pace, ball control and accurate shooting ability.
It was not long before he was on the move to Europe and he found himself in the Dutch league with FC Groningen after they purchased the Uruguayan in 2006 for €800,000. Suarez had yet to make his debut for his country and found himself at only 19 years old, playing for a mid-table Eredivisie side. He however rose to the task very well as he socred 14 goals in 31 appearances in his only season at the club. Although he was not a prolific goalscorer yet, the signs were good that his potential could be realised. He is a very clever player who can either play up front or on the wing, and his performances in the 2006/2007 season at Groningen impressed enough to attract the interest of Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam.
His speed and skill on the ball was rewarded with a €7.5million move to Amsterdam in the summer of 2007. The switch was not without controversy however, as a legal wrangle over the amount owed in transfer fees to Groningen due to a release clause in his contract meant Ajax had to agree to pay more than they initially intended at the court of arbitration. His time at Ajax, despite the unpromising beginnings, has been an unparalleled success as he scored 20 goals during his first season at the club, and he nearly equalled this total last season. He has so far scored over 60 goals in his 2 and half year stay at the club and he has now attracted the interest of Europe’s largest clubs including English teams Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool. His coach at Ajax Martin Jol certainly believes in Suarez’s talents:
“He really is a joy to watch. Is he too good to ply his trade in the Eredivisie? I don’t think so. I’d rather have two or three players more like him in my team.”
His stock rose even higher only a couple of months ago when he helped Uruguay seal a play-off place for the 2010 World Cup. In a pivotal qualifier against Ecuador in October, Suarez helped his side to a 2-1 win by scoring the equalising goal after going 1-0 down. It was a hopeful ball that found Suarez’s strike partner Diego Forlan near the corner flag and as he took control of the ball, Suarez made an excellent run to offer his team-mate an option in the box to cross to. Forlan saw Suarez and tried to pick the young forward out with a pass, and surely enough Suarez slipped behind the defender and put the ball in the back of the net. Uruguay managed to secure a last minute penalty which they scored to secure a play-off and after a two legged aggregate win over Costa Rica, they will be in South Africa in June.
In recent weeks, speculation has been rife both in Holland and over here that Suarez is on his way to Chelsea. A £15-20million offer has been suggested for the 22 year old Uruguayan, and the move has been seen to be more likely in January as Suarez is available for the knockout stages of the Champions League despite playing in the early rounds of the Europa League this season for Ajax. Both a move in January and a pre-contract agreement for the summer have been denied by Ajax. General director Rik van den Boog believes that Suarez has had no contact from any party:
I asked Luis about this and he insisted that he knows nothing about a pre-contract with Chelsea. Additionally, Ajax are not aware of anything like this.
It something that Suarez himself has also stated, although he did not deny he would like a move in the summer. Talking to Dutch radio, Suarez stated:
I am not going to move anywhere for the moment. I thank any team that is interested but my idea is to stay at Ajax at least until the end of the current season. Maybe when this season ends I will accept a move somewhere. Chelsea? There is nothing at all. I don’t know from where the press gets some information. If it’s true, I thank them that they are interested. I have said to everyone at Ajax that I want to stay here because I nearly always play and I want to be in good shape for next year to play for Uruguay in South Africa. I am going to stay at Ajax at least until June.
The commitment to Ajax is certainly not long standing and it certainly looks like if the Uruguayan forward doesn’t move in January, then he will be on his way, perhaps to England, in the summer after the World Cup. It will be up to Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti whether he feels he needs the striker before then.