Sunday, 6 February 2011

Can Luis Suarez eclipse Carlos Tevez as South America’s best Premier League striker?

Luis Suarez has been favourably compared to Carlos Tevez by many observers, including Suarez himself. Looking at the way Tevez demolished West Brom this weekend, there is plenty of room in the Premier League for a player who can emulate him.  For Liverpool fans, though, emulation is never enough. We demand greatness from our No. 7s.
Suarez himself cited Tevez as the catalyst for his desire to play in England, "When I see the way that Tevez plays there I think I can be a big name in England. It's because of the energy, and the spirit they put into the game in England. Now, I think it's a kind of football that suits me."
Suarez’s first flirtation with greatness came at his native club, Nacional. He joined as an 18 year old in 2005 and scored 10 goals in 21 appearances to fire them to the domestic title.
His next move personified a man with total confidence in his ability and a fearless nature. He entered Europe via the Netherlands and Groningen. The 19 year old could not speak a word of English or Dutch, so let his football do the talking. In analysing how well he did there, you only have to look at who came knocking for him next: Ajax. He signed for the masters of Dutch football after just one year in Eredivisie, aged 20.
Suarez became an instant hero at Ajax, scoring one and setting up three in an 8-1 demolition of De Graafschap on his debut. A brace in his home debut set him on course for a very respectable 22/44 for his first season in Europe.
By contrast, Tevez chose to spend his early career in South America.  As a 17 year old for Boca Juniors he showed his potential without ever being prolific in front of goal. However, his time there convinced Corinthians to part with £13.7m in 2005 for the 20 year old. It was the biggest ever transfer in the history of South American Football, funded by Kia Joorabchian’s Media Sports Investments. The faith shown in Tevez by this transfer fee was soon rewarded as he fired 31 goals in 47 games for them and became the first non-Brazilian to be named footballer of the year since 1976.
By the age of 20 Suarez and Tevez had chosen very different career paths but with similar success.
The goals Tevez has scored in England combined with his work ethic and a never-say-die attitude have enabled him to become a hero on both sides of Manchester over the past three years. On top of that, it must not be forgotten how he single handedly kept West Ham United in the Premier League in 2007.
Throughout the same period, Suarez has scored 81 goals in 110 games for Ajax, demanded and received the captaincy of the club at the age of 22 and joined the likes of Cruyff, van Basten and Bergkamp in their “100 Club”. He also kept his native Uruguay in the World Cup “single handedly” with a great save against Ghana.
In terms of their style of play they are remarkably similar and all of the signs point towards Suarez being a big hit in the Premier League. They both have the opportunity to become the greatest South American this country has ever seen.
Only time will tell which one of them will take it.

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