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Football Reporting


Suarez shows softer side after 500th goal with tributes to fans, family and donating soccer balls to youth clubs

Atletico maintained their four-point lead at the La Liga summit thanks to the 54th minute goal by Suarez, who went full length to steer a devilish Kieran Trippier cross past Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pachecho with a diving header. Jan Oblak saved a penalty to preserve the home side’s precarious lead late on, meaning Suarez’s 19th goal of the 2020-21 campaign proved to be the difference.

With 28 matches played, the only player to have outscored Suarez in La Liga is former Barcelona strike partner Lionel Messi, who has 23 goals to his name after finding the net twice against Real Sociedad on the same day.

The 34-year-old Uruguayan also joins Messi as one of only five active players to reach 500 career goals at both domestic and international level combined, joining some illustrious names on the roll call.

All active players with 500-plus goals for club and country

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (aged 36): 770 career goals.
2. Lionel Messi (33): 732 goals
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (39): 564 goals
4. Robert Lewandowski (32): 516 goals
5. Luis Suarez (34): 500 goals

Suarez’s 19 goals so far this season have come in the 31 appearances he’s made for Atletico, having signed from Barcelona on a free transfer in September which is scarcely any more believable now than it was when he made the move. Still, Barca could make up to €6m based on a number of performance-related variables, so that’s something.

Before being deemed surplus to requirements, the Uruguayan scored 198 goals in six seasons between 2014-2020 for Barca. He is the only player in the last decade other than Messi and Ronaldo to win the “Pichichi” award as La Liga’s top goal scorer, after netting 40 goals in 2015-16.

Before that, he scored 82 goals for Liverpool (2011-14), 111 goals for Ajax (2007-10), 15 goals for Groningen (2006-07), and 12 goals for Nacional (2005-06) in his first season as a senior professional. Some of Suarez’s clubs, past and present, congratulated him on No. 500.

Neymar, who made up the famed three-pronged “MSN” strike trio at Barcelona along with Suarez and Messi, offered a tip of the hat to his “brother” on Instagram. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard also shared the same image of Suarez in tribute to his former cohort.

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Suarez is also the Uruguay men’s national team’s all-time top goal scorer, having notched 63 goals in just 116 caps for La Celeste, and the country’s football federation hailed their hero with a great video tribute.

Suarez himself marked the occasion by pledging to donate 500 soccer balls to youth clubs in each of the cities where he has played during his career. He said: “I wanted to give back to the seven teams that have shaped me as football player. I wanted to give a boost to the youth teams in need of support and equipment to inspire them to follow their dreams.”

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The veteran striker also posted a message on social media to thank everybody who made his goal-laden passage from Montevideo to Madrid a possibility. In particular, Liverpool received a special mention with Suarez remembering his time at Anfield as one of the most important periods of his career.

“Liverpool was special. The connection with the fans inspired me to rise to the challenge of playing in such a competitive league,” he said in the message posted in Spanish, English and Dutch.

However, the most heartfelt message was reserved for his wife, Sofia, who received a touching tribute from her husband on his Instagram story.

“To think that you saw me score the first one when I was 18 and now the old man of 34 has reached 500,” Suarez wrote. “I love you each day more for what you mean to me, my queen.”

Sofia had already sent him a message on behalf of her and their children, which read: How lovely it is to see you achieve your goals… how beautiful it is to be here to support you in the good and in the bad much more! WE LOVE YOU FOREVER…”

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Suarez might have forged a reputation for being a tenacious, snarling nuisance on the pitch, but it seems likes he’s just a big softy underneath it all.

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