Suarez deserves a standing ovation on Barca return – Xavi

By Sports Desk February 05, 2022

Xavi hopes Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez receives a standing ovation from Barcelona's supporters on Sunday, as he ranked the Uruguayan alongside Samuel Eto'o as "the best modern-day Barca centre forward".

Suarez left Barca – in frustrating circumstances for the former Liverpool star and his close friend Lionel Messi – in 2020, with then-coach Ronald Koeman having deemed him surplus to requirements.

Barca's decision backfired as Suarez went on to propel Atleti to their second LaLiga title under Diego Simeone, scoring 21 top-flight goals last season.

The 35-year-old scored 198 goals for Barca between 2014 and 2020, netting once every 120 minutes, and said he was "disrespected" by the club when they decided to ship him out.

Xavi played alongside Suarez in his first season at Camp Nou, and believes the forward must be categorised as a modern-day great at Barca.

"I think he deserves a standing ovation," Xavi said of Suarez in a news conference previewing Sunday's clash with Atleti.

"The best modern-day Barca centre forward, with Eto'o. He has been great. You have to welcome him with honour. 

"The pity is that he couldn't leave with a great tribute because of COVID."

 

Antoine Griezmann could well partner Suarez up top, with the France attacker returning to his parent club. 

Griezmann has played more LaLiga games for Atleti against Barcelona without scoring than any other opponent (11).

Xavi, meanwhile, is facing Atleti for the first time as a coach. As a player, he lost none of his last eight appearances against Los Rojiblancos in the competition (W6 D2).

Barca would move above Atleti should they win, though if Atleti triumph, Diego Simeone will surpass Slovakian Ferdinand Daucik (234) for the most LaLiga victories by a non-Spanish manager in the competition's history.

Asked for his thoughts on Simeone's style of play, Xavi said: "It wouldn't be Barca's style, it wouldn't fit in, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have merit and isn't competitive. 

"People wouldn't understand if we were defensive. They win and it's legal to play like that, but it's not my style. It doesn't mean I don't admire him. Cholo is a great coach, it's not a criticism."

Barca are well adrift of LaLiga leaders Real Madrid, and Xavi understands that his priority is securing Champions League qualification.

"At the moment I want to enter the Champions League and then I don't rule anything out knowing the difficulty," he said. "We are 15 points down with one game in hand. We have to be realists."

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