“Suárez is Uruguay’s Mick Jagger” / Uruguay / Nacional / SOFOOT.com

On Sunday, Montevideo was set on fire to celebrate Luis Suárez’s moving return to Nacional, the club of his debut. As a welcome, Argentinian striker Emmanuel Gigliotti offered his number 9 to a crying gunslinger. Two days later, they shared a few minutes together on the pitch during the loss (0-1) against the Brazilians of Goianiense in the quarter-final first leg of the Copa Sudamericana. Nicknamed “el Puma”, the former Boca Juniors and Independiente striker recounts the madness that gripped the Uruguayan capital and analyzed local football preparing “Lucho” for his last World Cup.


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You are lucky to have experienced everything from the inside. How did Suarez return to Montevideo?
It was a revolution. The last few weeks have been really crazy. When Luis announced that Nacional had not contacted him and the president said he would call him, our team began to observe the whole world. It’s unimaginable to see a player of Luis’ stature come to Nacional. In South America, if you take Brazil with the level of competition and the economic power that can attract boys like Vidal, David Luiz and Felipe Luis, it is rare to find players of this caliber in Argentina or Uruguay. Imagine the delirium of a small country like that to see the return of a striker who played the best Barça in history. We’re talking about a guy who’s been in the top three or five at number 9 for the last fifteen years.

“I have never seen such a thing. It must be a first in the world of football. They talk about it all the time. The worst thing is that it convinced him to come!”

Honestly… Do you believe in his arrival?
With other players in the squad, we had hope but we didn’t believe in it. Like everything really. I have many friends who keep texting me for info. A week later, Luis denied River Plate, who had just been eliminated from the Copa Libertadores. We are talking about a big continental club trained by a respected coach like Gallardo. We did not expect him to come after this refusal. But when we started to see the extraordinary mobilization of Nacional supporters on social networks, we started to believe it. I have never seen anything like that. It should be a first in the football world. They always talk about it. The worst part is that it convinced him to come!

When the transition was formal, how did you react to each other?
Apart from the goalkeeper Sergio Rochet who played with Luis in the selection, none of us have ever been in a team with a player at such a level. We are all looking forward. There is a lot of excitement and emotion, especially for the kids in the club. For all of us, sharing a locker room or going on the pitch with him is something unbelievable. You look at it all the time. What did he do? What did he not do? What did he say? What didn’t he say? What should we say to him?! No one wants to laugh in front of Luis (laugh). We live in a very stable place.

“For me, it’s an honor. I gave him the shirt at the presentation in the stadium in front of 25,000 spectators. I’ve never spoken in front of so many people!”

Big lord, you gave him your number 9… Actually, you have a choice?
No one asked me anything in the club. It seemed natural for me to give my number to Luis. When we knew he was coming, I went to the stewards to ask them:guys ! Is there another number available for me? 9 for Luis» . The president thanked me. For me, it is an honor. I gave him the jersey at the stadium presentation in front of 25,000 spectators. I didn’t prepare anything except Sebastián “El Loco” Abreu, who hosted the event, asked me to say a few words. I have never spoken in front of so many people! The people in the stands were very moved. For them, Luis is like seeing Mick Jagger. He will also come at a time when the team is playing well. Although we lost the quarter-final first leg of the Copa Sudamericana on Tuesday, we can qualify for the second leg next week. It has been more than thirty years since a Uruguayan club won a continental trophy. We will do everything to get there. With Luis, we can have quality. I hope we can make the most of it.

You shared a few minutes with him on the pitch in the first leg against Atlético Clube Goianiense (0-1). It’s short but how’s it going?
We lost so I really got into the game. I didn’t notice right away. When I returned home, I received many messages from friends: “Did you realize you were playing with Suárez?“where”Dude, you did a one-two with Lucho!» . There, you come back to earth and you say to yourself: “Ok, this is crazy”. We must take advantage and learn as much as possible from his side. Even the twenty-year-old kid or me who is Luis’ age. It doesn’t matter. We have only trained once so far. On the field, we have seen in some touches of the ball, some movements that he is a different player. Now he is the one who has to get used to the fact that we are not the footballers he always plays with! (laughter).

“Under these conditions, players like Valverde, Cavani, Suárez, Nuñez were able to emerge. What will happen in the future if there is a better infrastructure?”

What is the value of the Uruguayan championship?
Here, it plays like ten years ago in Argentina. I am talking about before the arrival of coaches like Ricardo Gareca or Tata Martino who convinced us that it is possible to play differently and not just a warrior game. Here, it remains a football where there is a lot of friction. There is as much pressure as football in Argentina. The pitches are bad and I’m not talking about the training centers. If you want to improve the way you play, this is problematic. But when you see the raw material that is here, you say to yourself that this country is far from giving all that it can. In these conditions, players like Valverde, Cavani, Suárez, Nuñez were able to emerge. What will the future look like with better infrastructure? There is a lot to do. They have 10% of Argentina’s population but an impressive amount of talented players.

How would you define the Nacional club?

Supporters are always there. They encourage you when you meet them on the road. If you saw what they did when Luis arrived, it gives you an idea. This is a big club. For me, it is one of the biggest in the continent. The institution has been world champion three times in its history. We must reclaim the past glory. It will take time but I believe we have leaders who can support this progress.

In your career, you have played great clásicos like Boca Juniors – River Plate or Independiente – Racing. The rivalry between Nacional and Peñarol, where do you put it?
The country is very small. Everything was so close that the rivalry was lived to the level of madness as you can get in a clásico in Rosario in Argentina between Central and Newell’s Old Boys. Almost half of Uruguay is from Peñarol and the other half is from Nacional. People and especially players remain fanatical about their club over time. When the championship starts, the two institutions look above all at the date of the clásico. The next one is at the end of the month. If you meet supporters on the street, they won’t tell you they want to be champions. They repeat to you:Win the classic!» . Beautiful madness.

“Here, he is at home. He feels good. For me, the emotional and the whole psychological dimension is the most important. The World Cup is in a few months. If there are two years left, it will be different. .”

We still wonder if Suárez will be able to prepare for his last World Cup by playing in Uruguay. What do you think?
I think players of his caliber, who have played in many World Cups and played in big clubs, do most of their preparation in training. These are guys who have a perfect lifestyle off the pitch. Luis recently had to have his knee treated. He will gradually regain all his abilities. He is at home. He feels fine. For me, the emotional and the whole psychological dimension is the most important. The World Cup in a few months. If there are two more years, it will be different.

If not… Is he good, the Lucho?
I have never seen him in my life. Our first time will be in a stadium with a microphone in front of 25,000 people and the whole world is watching. It is unique and rare. I hope the whole world sees my confidence in my speech (laugh). To be honest, Luis is good. I hope this will inspire other great South American players to come back here.

Interview with Georges Quirino Chaves

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