Luis Suarez has bid a tearful farewell to FC Barcelona and their fans.
In a special ceremony, on stage alongside president Josep Bartomeu, the Uruguayan was initially unable to compose himself.
“I have nothing prepared because this is all very unforeseen,” the 33-year-old began on his shock sale to Atletico Madrid, before stressing that he will always be “eternally grateful” to Barça for taking a bet on him “despite making a tremendous mistake” in the 2014 World Cup when biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini.
“People know the effort I have always made to be able to play for the best team in the world,” said Suarez when reflecting on his six-year tenure at the Camp Nou, which yielded 13 major trophies. “I have to be proud of everything I did and for taking friends with me. That makes me happy, waking up with the people of the club and seeing that as well as a player, a human being who has feelings leaves,” he added.
“I really enjoyed the good and the bad: lifting titles, scoring, playing alongside great players, playing alongside the best player in the world. I’d like to thank the fans for their support, [because they] encouraged me until the last day. And [I’d like] to thank the staff who work with us every day,” Suarez said.
“I saw a dream come true, but I never imagined reaching these figures,” Suarez admitted of sealing a legacy as the club’s third all-time top scorer with 198 goals. “You must always perform at your best here and you don’t know how many years you can [stay]. I am more than proud and satisfied with some spectacular and wonderful years at Barça.”
On becoming best friends with Lionel Messi during his time as a Blaugrana star, and the last few weeks that almost saw the captain follow him out of the exit door, Suarez said, “It’s been a crazy month. Things have been invented, things that are not true have been leaked and that is not right, but you must stay away from everything [like that]. Everyone knows the relationship I have with Leo Messi. When I arrived they said ‘Watch out for Leo, he’s a forward’. And I’m a forward and they said it was bad for him … [But] I leave proud of everything we have done.”
Asked to reveal more about his conversation with new manager Ronald Koeman, when the number 9 was told he was unwanted for the Dutchman’s 2020/2021 project, Suarez quipped that, “No matter how much one has a contract, the club and the player need changes”.
“In this case it was the coach that did not count on me. I leave thinking that I have fulfilled the expectations [made of me], as the third top scorer in [the club’s] history happy to leave a beautiful mark and be remembered for everything I did in good times and bad. You have to be self-critical.”
“Young players support those who have more experience and offer more alternatives,” Suarez said of Barça’s squad for the upcoming campaign. “I hope it will be a very good year [for them] and that the young people can take advantage of their opportunities and be very successful.”
Receiving a hearty round of applause after fielding trivial questions from journalists in South America, El Pistolero now heads to the Spanish capital to assume the command of Diego Simeone at the Wanda Metropolitano.