Suarez needs to rediscover goal touch

Open a Catalan sports newspaper, or turn on sports radio in Barcelona, and you will quite likely see or hear Luis Suarez talking about his new club or his past issues.

Suarez needs to rediscover goal touch

Suarez did not speak much in public during his three and a half years at Liverpool, but he has been a fixture in the local media in Spain through recent weeks.

This has been a surprise. Barca talisman Lionel Messi almost never talks to Catalan reporters — and even regularly snubs his own club’s TV channel. Neymar generally prefers to speak directly to his fans via social media.

By contrast, Suarez is everywhere — talking live on Spanish television on the pitch after games, analysing his own performances on Barca TV, and doing regular feature interviews with local radio and newspapers.

There was even a ghostwritten autobiography released to coincide with his Barca debut, which was of course delayed until October due to his biting of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at last summer’s World Cup.

Even more striking is that no subjects are taboo.

The Chiellini bite, and two previous similar incidents when at Liverpool and Ajax, come up all the time. Suarez now (more or less) accepts his guilt and deserved to be punished. He regularly however brings up how he still feels badly treated in the racism case involving Patrice Evra in 2011. Which is — of course — gold for both editors and readers.

The tone of the interviews can be abrasive, with a sometimes prickly Suarez on the lookout for any personal slights or trick questions. But the responses seem honest and each interview is worth reading. He can even be funny.

“If you are going to look at what happened at World Cup when deciding the Ballon D’Or winner, then you should include all the players, not just me,” Suarez said to Mundo Deportivo this week.

“There were some who were knocked out in the first round.”

This undisguised dig at Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo of course went down well with Barca fans.

Many are likely to answer a current call for supporters to send video questions to the club website, which Suarez will individually answer online next week.

This is again more orchestrated PR to show an appealing personal side of a player known as much for his temper as his skills, but the questions submitted are not all likely to be positive.

Suarez has now not scored in his first seven La Liga games. During Saturday’s dour goalless draw at Getafe, last year’s European golden shoe winner had four shots, none of which hit the target. This barren run is a growing issue among blaugrana pundits, even though Suarez has scored twice in the Champions League and provided six assists already. Barca paid €80 million, and finalised the deal even after the Chiellini controversy, as they wanted goals. The team is also not clicking properly, and has dropped four points behind La Liga leaders Madrid.

The player himself knows this — and admitted last week to feeling frustrated after a particularly poor showing against Espanyol earlier this month.

“I was angry with my game,” he said. “I didn’t feel comfortable with myself at any moment. But I’ve learned that it’s not always a bad thing to be frustrated. It’s an inner-anger more than anything.”

The 27-year-old went on to explain that professional counselling received since joining Barca has helped to channel such anger and frustration in positive ways.

But last Wednesday’s off-the-ball kick at PSG’s Brazilian centre-half Thiago Silva suggested some dark urges still remain.

Suarez’s mixture of superb skills, deep introspection and beyond-the-pale behaviour is pretty much unique in world sport.

Since joining Barca, he has not bitten anyone yet, and the carefully managed campaign to show him as an ordinary and likeable human being continues.

But he needs to start scoring more goals, and quickly.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox