Henk Veldmate signed the Uruguay international for Groningen from Nacional as a 19-year-old in 2006 and said Suarez’s character was heavily influenced by his South American upbringing.
“He’s a grown up person but also, in the way he likes playing football, he sometimes has the mentality of a child,” said the Dutch club’s sporting director.
“That’s the way he enjoys playing. If you compare the mentality and attitude to Dutch players, then in South America it’s dead or alive.
“To do the best for your family — it’s a way of life and a way of surviving.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had suggested something similar in relation to Suarez’s background when he spoke last week immediately after the player received a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
Veldmate, speaking in a Radio 5 Live documentary What’s Eating Luis Suarez, to be broadcast tonight, added it took him just 15 minutes to decide they had to sign the forward.
He had travelled to Uruguay to watch another player but was so taken by Suarez he immediately changed his priority.
“He had everything you see today — he scored a goal and did some fantastic dribbles,” Veldmate added.
“Sometimes you think he is lucky with his dribbles — he starts something and you think it is impossible, but in the end it works and he creates a chance and scores a goal.
“He dived to win a penalty, so all the things we see in Luis’ potential we saw in that 15 minutes and most importantly we saw he was a winner.”
Former Groningen team-mate Hugo Alves said that will to win was evident from the moment he arrived at the club.
“He is the type of player that once inside the box he is capable of anything to score a goal, to get the ball from an opponent,” he said. “He does anything to win. He is a winner. And because of his way of thinking, if he is in the heat of the moment, full of emotion, he makes these kind of mistakes.
“Obviously this kind of thing [biting] shouldn’t happen, cannot happen. It’s happened to him.”