Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi are two halves of one of the most iconic duos world football has ever seen. They spent six years together at Camp Nou raising hell for their opponents and racking up goals, assists and trophies at an astonishing rate. So much so that by the time Suarez left, he had already become the third-highest scorer for the club with 198 goals. Messi himself had assisted 39 of them. But their partnership went deeper than that.
📊 — Luis Suarez at FC Barcelona:
– 283 games
– 198 goals
– 109 assists
Barça's third top goal-scorer in history. pic.twitter.com/mvaJpyhx0h
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) September 21, 2020
The pair of them were extremely close off the field as well. They lived near each other, went to parties together and even their children were in the same school at one point of time. The extent of their friendship was extensively known across the footballing spectrum so much so that it led to Messi lashing out at his own employers for their treatment of the Uruguayan.
FAR FROM HAPPY
When Ronald Koeman took charge of the Catalan club, Barcelona were in a crisis. They had surrendered La Liga to Real Madrid after being top before the season was halted. Bayern Munich had smacked them 8-2 in the Champions League as well and even the legendary Messi had asked to be let go.
His wish was denied and the Argentinian was seething at then-president Josep Bartomeu ever since. So, it came as no surprise that seeing his best-mate leave was not the most ideal of things.
Leo Messi wants to activate the clause to leave Barcelona immediatly, as FCB also confirmed. Barcelona position is still so clear: Messi has a 700 million euros release clause, the "free clause" has expired in June. Board reunited to take decisions on next days. 🔴 #FCB #Messi
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 25, 2020
Koeman had informed Suarez he was surplus to requirements and with the 2020-21 season on the horizon, he was sold to Atletico Madrid for £5.5m. That was enough for Messi to take his anger public, with the now infamous Instagram post where he lambasted the club for their treatment of Suarez and how “nothing” surprised him anymore in regards to the running of the club.
Messi did eventually end up staying, persuaded by his love for the club, and with the two best friends now on rival teams, there was a lot of football to be played up ahead.
FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS
Both the ace marksmen have continued their goal scoring ways over the course of this season. Messi, whose brace earned Barcelona a crucial 3-2 win against Valencia last week, is the league’s top scorer currently with 28 goals and looks set to end the campaign with another Pichichi trophy in the bag.
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) May 2, 2021
He has also set up nine goals for his teammates, good enough for joint-third in the rankings. The 33-year-old’s future is shrouded in mystery but for now he remains firmly committed to the task at hand which is getting back on top of the league by winning on Saturday.
Suarez meanwhile has found the back of the net 19 times for his club as Diego Simeone’s table-toppers hope to maintain their slim gap over the chasing pack. Los Rojiblancos hold a two point lead over the Blaugrana going into Saturday’s momentous clash and know that any hope of stopping Messi and co. from winning is to have Suarez score.
15 – @atletienglish have earned 15 points thanks to 18 goals scored by Luis Suárez 🇺🇾 in #LaLiga this season, four more than any other player (Gerard Moreno, Lionel Messi & Youssef En-Nesyri, 11 each on). Distinction#AtleticoMadrid #AtletiAthletic pic.twitter.com/diN2Wb3GMp
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 10, 2021
‘El Pistolero’ is experiencing a bit of a dry spell in front of goal, with his last league goal coming towards the end of March. He has had some injury issues coming into the final leg of the season as well, but he did start Atletico Madrid’s last match against Elche, where he had a goal ruled out for offside.
EVERYTHING AT STAKE
It is clear that as the two old friends meet, the cordial relations will have to be put to one side as both look to push their respective teams closer to the finish line. Suarez had missed the reverse encounter back in November, as Simeone’s side triumphed 1-0. But it is clear now that with such a close race, anything can happen this time around.
Teamwork makes the dream work! ✨
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) May 6, 2021
Will Messi be able to lead Barcelona to another title, in what might be his last season? Can Suarez run riot at the Camp Nou once more? Saturday’s match promises to be a must-watch as the one time teammates go head to head for the La Liga crown.