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Piqué+ Suárez

Jan 15 2018
Photo by
Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Photo by
Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Gerard Piqué
FC Barcelona
Jan 15 2018

 

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Gerard Piqué
Thank you very much for being here with us.

Luis Suárez
You’re welcome.

Gerard
We will be talking about the World Cups, and about your career on the national team, which I have researched a little bit. Obviously it would be too much to do on your career at Ajax and Liverpool, but on the national team, not so much. And one of the surprises I came across is that you made your debut with the national team right before we met — when you played against me, against Spain, in the Under-20 World Cup in Canada in 2007. It was in February against Colombia. Tell me about the experience, because you ended up getting sent off. I had no idea this happened!

Suárez
Hahaha. Yes well, it was my first year at Groningen, and well … I couldn’t go to the South American Under-20 with Uruguay, but since I was scoring goals and so on at Groningen, they called me up for that exhibition game with the full national team, and that’s when I made my debut.

There was this thing before the game — they had told me that the only jersey that was left was the number 10. When they told me that, well … Loco Abreu, who was a footballing father for me at the time, said not to take it because it would bring bad luck, hahaha!. And in the end of the game he was right, because I made my debut and …

Gerard
Red card, hahaha…. Yeah, but you drew a penalty kick.

Suárez
Yes, yes, well truth is, for my first game with the national team — we won 3–1 in Cúcuta against Colombia — and the truth is, it was a very good, beautiful, amazing experience to make my debut.  

Gerard
Then the Under-20 World Cup comes around, where we met in the first game, 2–2. You score a golazo. And well, you advance. We end up tying, and from there on you go on to join the full national team.

Suárez
Yes, well, I wasn’t sure if the coach was going to take me with the full national team to Copa America or if I had to go to the Under-20 World Cup. Well, they decided to send me to the Under-20 World Cup, where I knew I would play, and we got to play you Spain. I remember we were winning until the end when you tied it. Then in September, I think, of 2007 the qualifiers started, and from there on I started to play with the full national team, which surprised me because in the first game of the qualifiers I was already a starter.

Gerard
The qualifications for the 2010 World Cup comes around, and it’s your first World Cup, I imagine those are amazing memories, no?

Suárez
Yes. I think Uruguay in terms of overall level — always in the World Cup there’s one team that surprises — and, well, in that one I think it was us. It was between us and Ghana, and in the quarterfinals we ended up winning against them on penalty kicks. I assume later you will ask me about the handball, hahaha!  

As for the experience, it was spectacular for Uruguay to get to the quarterfinals. We got to the semis with the whole team in good form, and Diego Forlán, in that World Cup, he killed it. It was spectacular, I think he was our breakout star, and I think, for what Uruguay was, and how Uruguay got there, we had a huge World Cup.

Gerard
In the group stage, you played against France, I believe you tie 0-0. Then South Africa you beat 3–0. You score the first goal against Mexico, and you win 1–0, and go through as leaders, I think?

Suárez
Yes, we went through as leaders.

Gerard
Against South Korea you score two goals, and you win 2–1, and in the quarterfinals, Ghana. Later though, in the semifinals … I also watched the Holland game….

Suárez
I think that …

Gerard
You put forward very offensive-minded football — a lot of goals all the time.

Suárez
Yes, I think that it’s not for nothing. It’s easy to talk now, but yeah, if we would have played the semifinal against Holland with Diego Lugano, who in that moment was spectacular, Jorge Fucile, who was named, I believe, the best left wingback of the World Cup, and me, who had been suspended … if the three of us would have played, it would have been different. We played with many starters of which it was …

Holland had a little bit of luck, but still, despite the circumstances we played 2–3 — and it was a very fair result — but otherwise, I think we would have had one or another opportunity to reach the final. And then I don’t know if we would have won it or not.

Frank Augstein/AP

Gerard
Tell me how you felt after that handball [against Ghana in the quarters], because afterward I saw you in the locker room tunnel, when you saw them missing the penalty kick and …

Suárez
Not in the locker room. There, in the tunnel.

Gerard
You were in the locker room tunnel, and there’s an image of you celebrating when the ball hits the bar. And you go to penalty kicks, and you end up qualifying.

Suárez
Hahaha!

Gerard
But, that play — first you save it without touching it with your hand, and afterward you do put your hand on it.

Suárez
Yes.

Gerard
It must have been a very odd sensation for you because you ended up being sent off and not being able to play in the semifinals, but you did save the team.

Suárez
Yes, the truth is, it was a bit of everything — of being depressed, of being sad, of being sent off. Because we were going to lose, but if they weren’t scoring that goal we weren’t going to lose, and … well, you get up within 30 seconds when he takes the penalty kick, the satisfaction of … of … well, I took a risk in a situation of which I have been blamed for anti fair play. However, the Ghana player missing the penalty is not my fault.

Gerard
Not at all.

Ivan Sekretarev/AP

Suárez
I didn’t kick anyone or anything like that, that’s why I think that I celebrated like that, for having taken a risk for something that was worth it. And I remember that I celebrated it more than a goal.  A teammate on the bench passed out on that play, hahaha.

Gerard
Hahaha. Seriously?! I didn’t know that. Who was it?

Suárez
Castillo. Juan Castillo.

Gerard
He passed out! Hahaha.

Suárez
There, in the celebration of the penalty kick, he says he passed out. And well, I left screaming and went to the locker room to watch the penalty kicks. And, the truth is, it was painful watching the penalty kicks in the locker room. I’ll tell you, when El Loco Abreu hits the penalty kick I was with a …

Gerard
He does a Panenka.

Suárez
Yes, yes, yes. He chips it, El Loco, and we were with one of the kit men. We are watching what El Loco is doing — and we say “good, good, good” — and we see everyone taking off running. We hadn’t realized that we had won! And then we went running onto the field, and it was was incredible. It was a moment that, to me, is one of the best moments I experienced with the national team.

Gerard
Then the 2011 Copa America comes about and there I think — you have it even tattooed … Hahaha! … I always joke that it’s the only title you’ve got tattooed … Hahaha!

Alberto Estévez/EFE/ZUMA Wire

Suárez
You’d do your whole body, you’ve told me, if you tattooed all your titles.

Gerard
But it’s true you have a perfect tournament in Argentina. You’re named the best player, you score both goals against Peru in the semifinals. In the final you also score against, against …

Suárez
Paraguay.

Gerard
Against Paraguay, that’s right. You won 3–0, I believe, winning a title with Uruguay for a Uruguayan must be the ultimate thing, no?

Suárez
Yes, and well, it was a plus that Uruguay had won the 1987 Copa America also in Argentina. And I think that beating Argentina in the quarterfinals was a huge boost for us, a hard hit for Argentina playing at home, but I think that, in overall level of play, it was a Copa we deserved for the the way we did it. We didn’t have any bad moments, and sincerely when we won the semifinal against Peru, we told ourselves that we were in a good place. Paraguay got to the final I think playing the last three games — or no, I think both in the quarter and the semi — playing 120 minutes and winning by penalty kicks, so they were physically tired and all that, and that was a plus for us and I think that…

Gerard
With El Tata?

Suárez
Yes, with El Tata. And well the Copa America, the stadium was full of Uruguayans, and it was an unforgettable tournament, and for me being awarded best player was obviously a plus. I almost got the top scorer too, I think [Peru’s Paolo] Guerrero beat me by a goal.

Gerard
Exactly.

Suárez
Who in the third-place game scored like three goals.

Gerard
Oh really? I didn’t know.

Suárez
Yes, I was paying attention — hahaha! Truth is, it was an amazing tournament, and for a Uruguayan, it’s something spectacular and it’s valued tremendously.

Gerard
The 2014 World Cup comes about, and that season you are the best player in the Premier League. I believe top scorer, too, in the qualifiers, with 11 goals. See? I prepared well!

Suárez
I beat Leo by one. By one!

Gerard
Oh yeah! hahaha! I’m gonna tell him! Then right before the World Cup you had a minor knee injury, in the meniscus I believe. You get an arthroscopy done. You barely make it back. You miss the first game against Costa Rica and the team actually ends up losing. And next you’re up against England and Italy, who are strong teams. You play against England, and you score both goals.

Tell me a little bit about how you felt, because you were coming from the injury, it was the English, and we’ve heard about how they treated you there. I am sure you wanted to beat them and get revenge on them, eh? How was all that?

Suárez
The truth is, it was a complicated moment because of the injury, because it just happened in the last game, Liverpool–Newcastle. We were in a close fight for the Premier. It was the last game. City had already won the championship, and we were …

It was a play against a defender and I feel a hit, that’s it. Afterward I was on vacation for a week. I remember I was here in Barcelona — and nothing, I went back to Uruguay to train, and I was feeling good. And on the second day I make a move, and I feel something in my knee. The doctor told me there was already an injury from a previous hit, and well, I think, I don’t remember if there was. It was on the 20th, so there was less than a month to the first game, and truth is I had that doubt of whether to get surgery and miss the World Cup.

Lars Baron/FIFA via Getty Images

However, in that moment, obviously my optimism, the support from my family…. I also had faith in the Uruguay trainer, Walter Ferreira, who told me, “Don’t worry, you will make it.” And, well, there was also doubt about whether the manager, El Maestro, if I got the surgery, if he was going to bring me to the World Cup knowing that there would be a period, the first two or three games that I wouldn’t play. They took me thinking that at the most I would play the third game, and if we went through. Knowing that it was difficult, and well, truth is, I worked a lot during that period to make it to the World Cup.

In the first game, I was on the bench, but hard-headed as I am, I remember I went to warm up on my own, hahaha, because I wanted to get into the game no matter what. And El Maestro, at no point did he consider the option of letting me in, but there I was warming up.

Gerard
He didn’t have you in mind.

Suárez
And truth is, I ended up pissed for not having played. We were losing in the debut and well… In the days leading up to the England game, I really killed myself to be able to make it to the game against them, especially since I had gone through a tough time. I remember the day of the injury, when the stuff about the possible surgery came out in the English headlines, there were, you know, the typical things: “Eh, hope the recovery goes slow” and so on, for me not to make the game. And well, playing against them and scoring two goals, truth is, for me, it was the most emotional moment I’ve lived in my career as a national team player, regardless of the titles and the previous World Cups — for everything, for what my recovery meant, and of the trainer who was with me.

Li Ga/Xinhua/ZUMA Wire

Gerard
You celebrated the second goal with him, no?

Suárez
Yes. No, the first one. The first one, also because — a lot of people don’t know this — he was coming out of recovering from a lymph cancer. And after some time passes, six months after the World Cup, he passed away. And, well, he went with a so-and-so doctor’s note because I told him I wanted to go to the World Cup, but only if he went with me. It was a really beautiful story that I had with him, and, well, that’s why the first thing I did was to remember him in that moment in which he was present, and truth is, until this day, it’s a moment that I remember a lot.

Gerard
Then the Italy game comes about, where you win, but, well, there’s an incident with the biting of [Giorgio] Chiellini. From the moment it happens, until the end of the game, are you already thinking about what’s going to happen to you, because you know …

Suárez
Yes.

Gerard
… from previous occasions. Or is it once the game ends, you think, “Oof, I think I’ve messed up?”

Suárez
After that — after I did it — I realized immediately. We score our goal a few minutes after, I think it’s about 10 minutes after when [Diego] Godín scores, and I don’t celebrate it as much as I usually would — the way everyone else celebrated it — because I was already thinking about the aftermath.

We advance, and I think we went to thank the Uruguayan fans. Everyone is screaming, celebrating, because obviously we had won against the two Europeans, qualifying and all, it had been spectacular, and I already felt everything. I enter the locker room and the first thing I do was to speak with my wife, who was there with the kids and all. And she asks me, asked me what I had done. And obviously, I always, initially I didn’t want to accept reality — negating, crying, and all — and, well, after it all, some feelings in the locker room were of happiness, but also everyone checking their phones and all for what was to come. And, well, the truth is, it was a very, very painful moment for me, for the team, and obviously, what happened, it affects you. It hurts you and all that.

Gerard
When did you start talks with Barcelona about coming here? That summer, before the World Cup?

Suárez
No, it was right then — there at the World Cup. It was during the World Cup period.

Gerard
And during any moment, did it cross your mind that because of it …

Suárez
Yes, yes.

Gerard
… the Barcelona deal could fall through?

Suárez
Yes, yes. Because it was everything — in addition to thinking about the World Cup, and being able to fulfill my dream to come here to Barça — everything had gone overboard for me. And I think in the few days after that — before they kicked me out of the World Cup — that’s when I spoke with Zubi [Andoni Zubizarreta Urreta], and the president, and they told me to be calm because Barça still wanted me and … and I have no problem saying it, I cried. Because, they were accepting, and me going through what I did in that moment, and with the shit I had caused, it was complicated to trust in me. Truth is, Barça has been so good to me, and I will always be very grateful for that.

Gerard
The truth is, I know very few teammates who are as noble and good people as you are. But I am telling you now, and I am serious — you know the relationship we have — but when we react on the playing field, people don’t know that our hearts are pumping at a thousand beats per minute. It’s just that these are things that happen, and I think your behavior at Barça from the moment you arrived, not only in the locker room — which I have told you, I think you are one of the nicest people I have met in a locker room — but also on the playing field, it’s admirable. So, Gordo, you should know it’s an honor to have you here.

Suárez
It’s the first time you give me goosebumps … Hahaha! You always have to try to remain the same way, no? Knowing where you’re coming from, to Barça, as we always said, you said it — that with Ney and Leo being here, it was complicated for me to come here, be well liked, be at that level, and trying to do it as good as possible, as much inside as outside the locker room.

Gerard
I will throw out a statistic that I was analyzing. You always like it when I throw out statistics! But since you made your debut in the World Cup, every time you’ve been on the playing field, Uruguay never lost. And the three times you didn’t play, Uruguay has lost, which is in the semifinal of the 2010 World Cup, against Costa Rica before that, and eventually the time against Colombia when Uruguay was eliminated when all this happens. So, don’t get injured, don’t get suspended, and perhaps you will win the 2018 World Cup! What are your thoughts on it? How do you view the 2018 World Cup?

Suárez
Truth is, there are many strong teams today, and it’s very complicated. It will be very even, and well, there will always be one surprise team of which you have to be careful with everything, no? I don’t know which one it will be out all of them, but there will be many teams that will be there.

Gerard
Do you see any favorite? Any team that’s more of a favorite than the others, or is it a group of teams, of which anyone can win?

Suárez
Favorite … Uruguay! Hahaha!

Gerard
Damn, you like to add some pressure, eh? Hahaha!

Suárez
Nah, I think there are many. Obviously, the European teams: Germany, for being the last champion. Spain is playing at an amazing level. France I like a lot — the players they have, although today the majority are young, but France is France. And then obviously Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.

Gerard
What surprised me a lot, since you made your debut with the national team, you already have, I believe, 95 caps and 49 goals, and you’ve always had the same coach and you talk about him as El Maestro. So explain to me a little bit about that, because it’s difficult for a coach to spend that many years on the same bench.

JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images

Suárez
Truth is, great credit to what he’s done, because in today’s day and age he is an example, an icon in Uruguay. What he says is sacred — Maestro Tabárez — for what he has done for Uruguay because he’s changed tons of things. The players today respect him a lot, and everything he says is respectable for the new ones who come who learn and all. And I think he has earned the maximum possible respect in Uruguay. And that’s why no one gets overly animated even when Uruguay has gone through complicated moments. He’s not even criticized, hasn’t been blamed for poor results, instead people always look for a formula for change but for El Maestro to continue. I think that’s admirable for what he has earned with the trajectory he has and I think for me he has sincerely been, to me he is the best coach I have had for what he means to me as a player, as a human being, for how he has made me mature, how he has made me change, eh. He has done some things for me, like what happened in the 2014 World Cup, which was something with FIFA coach [of the year award], and he renounced it for the way FIFA had treated me. So imagine how grateful I am to him, and well, today he is one of the people I will always be thankful to.

Gerard
And in conclusion, you are of the same generation — obviously we are of the 87s — but also [Edison] Cavani is of the 87s. I assume you coincided with him from the youth levels until now in the national team, what kind of relation do you have with him? Do you think it’s the only, the last opportunity you have to be able to win a World Cup? I know these are big questions, but in the next one you will already be 35 years old I think.

Suárez
Obviously we are of the same generation. We have been there since 2007 from when we made our debut with the under 20s, playing together. And well, he has appeared in a couple of more games than me with the full national team, and we always coincided. We both happen to be from Salto, the same city in Uruguay, and well, obviously, Uruguay is very enthusiastic with how we both perform in Europe and globally. We are a reference for Uruguay and I think that gives people encouragement to be enthusiastic, to have some hope. What we try to do with Edi, is to do it the best way possible to try to have that percentage to get far with Uruguay…

Gerard
And a question to wrap up: Do we win anything with Barça this year or what?

Suárez
Yes, yes, for sure!

Gerard
Yeah? Leo told me the same thing, so now I am super excited. Hahaha! Well, thank you so much, truthfully, truthfully.

Gerard Piqué
FC Barcelona