Suárez back alongside former Barcelona teammates with Inter Miami training underway
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — There they all were, sitting next to each other on a couple of benches in their practice attire, all of them smiling. Lionel Messi was sipping on a drink at one end, Luis Suárez next to him, then Sergio Busquets, then Jordi Alba on the other end.
This wasn't Barcelona in 2014.
This was Inter Miami on Saturday.
It's official: Messi, Busquets, Alba and Suárez are together again, this time in Major League Soccer. Preseason training for Inter Miami officially opened Saturday, with Suárez being seen in his new colors for the first time after signing a one-year deal last month to join the trio of his former teammates who arrived last summer.
“To come help a team that has well-known players that everyone knows and (adjust) to the other players and what is a new club and do what the club wants — which is to attempt to win an MLS Cup and do it with professionalism — is what is wanted of me,” Suárez said.
Suárez and Messi spent six seasons together at Barcelona, winning four Spanish league titles and nine other trophies — including a Champions League title — in that span. Suárez is coming off a year where he was best player and best striker in the Brazilian league with Gremio, but has ailing knees, is turning 37 in a couple weeks and is entering his 19th professional season.
Coming to MLS, though, doesn't sound like his soft landing into retirement. He made it very clear on Saturday: He's with Inter Miami to win. The team will try to defend its Leagues Cup trophy this season, plus has an MLS title to chase, along with the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the U.S. Open Cup.
“The best advice to give to the players is to dream and dream big,” Suárez said. “To dream that we want to win ... why not dream to win the four titles? It depends on us. We can speak about it, but we have to demonstrate it on the pitch with work, commitment, sacrifice."
As if playing with Messi again wouldn't be enough of a reason to come to MLS, Suárez said another selling point came from a series of talks with David Beckham, the soccer legend and part of Inter Miami's ownership group.
"This is so important for me," Suárez said. “He talked to me about the good things about Inter Miami, about MLS. It was so nice for me when he told me that.”
Suárez's career has been filled with tons of success and a few highly questionable moments.
With Suárez, Uruguay ended 20 years of World Cup underachievement by reaching the semifinals in 2010. He helped deliver Uruguay’s first Copa America title in 16 years in 2011. He was instrumental in Atletico Madrid’s first Spanish title in seven years in 2021.
He also is known for an infamous intentional handball in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals to take a semifinal spot from Ghana and served bans on three occasions for biting opponents — the most recent of those in 2014, after he chomped down on the shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini following a tussle in the penalty area during a World Cup match.
But for years, Messi, Busquets and Alba have raved about him. It's no secret that Suárez's knees probably won't allow him to play in every match on Inter Miami's jammed 2024 schedule, and that seems to be more than fine with coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.
“Luis worked very hard and completed his training very well,” Martino said after the first formal practice. “Surely during the length of the season, if we need to take precautions with his knee (we will), but today he has worked very well and he looks in good form and we’re happy with that.”
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer