RECIFE, Brazil -- Luis Suarez has reminded anyone who'll listen at the Confederations Cup that he's playing for Uruguay, and not for a transfer from Liverpool to another club -- perhaps Real Madrid.
"I'm going out to play for my country of Uruguay," Suarez said. "I'm not here thinking about a transfer or anything like that."
The Uruguay striker is one of the game's best, elusive on the dribble with a knack for scoring. He also has a penchant for getting into trouble and doing the wrong thing, drawing attention to himself in a way that has embarrassed his club and country and detracted from his playing skills.
Still -- and here's the caveat -- he's the most important player for Uruguay if the South Americans are to beat World Cup champion Spain on Sunday in the their first game in the Confederations Cup, the eight-team warm-up for next year's World Cup.
In addition to fending off rumours about a move to Real Madrid, Suarez has also tried to use the Confederations Cup to apologize again for his behaviour.
"Obviously I have done things that I myself recognize, and I've asked to be pardoned," he said. "As a player, as a professional I'd like to be valued more for the way I play on the pitch than for other things."
Suarez has a long record of getting into trouble.
The 26-year-old was criticized in the 2010 World Cup for using his hand to stop a shot from Ghana that was heading towards goal. The move saved Uruguay in the quarterfinal match and got the South Americans into the semifinals and a fourth-place finish.
More recently, he was banned for 10 English Premier League matches in April for biting Chelsea defender Branisalv Ivanovic on the arm. He missed the last four Premier League games -- he still finished with 23 goals -- and will miss the first six next season.
This was not the first biting incident.
While playing in the Netherlands in 2010, he served a seven-match suspension for biting another player, earning him various nicknames, including the "Cannibal of Ajax."
A year later at Liverpool, he served an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, who is black. He subsequently refused to shake hands with Evra prior to a match, again raising the charge of racism.
And -- and this seems minor in comparison -- he has a reputation as a diver.
Despite it all, Suarez has his defenders.
Sebastian Bauza, president of the Uruguay Football Association, has singled out Suarez as the country's key player.
"We need for Suarez, as soon as possible ... to be the player he was in the (2011) Copa America and the World Cup in South Africa," Bauza said. "We have tough games coming up and we need Suarez at 100 per cent."
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has tried to take off the pressure, saying the Group B game with Spain is less important than the second match against Nigeria. Uruguay finishes with Tahiti.
Spain defeated Uruguay 3-1 in a friendly in February in Doha, Qatar.
"The key game is the second," Tabarez said. "Winning it will be a giant step to put us among the final four. This is not to downgrade Tahiti, but in reality this is a team with less experience."