Messi knows me well – Suarez proud after Barcelona star's backing

By Sports Desk September 25, 2020

Luis Suarez said he was proud after being defended by Lionel Messi following his move to Atletico Madrid from Barcelona.

Suarez, 33, joined Atletico in a €6million move this week after six trophy-laden seasons at Camp Nou.

His close friend and Barcelona star Messi slammed the Catalan giants on Friday, saying Suarez was "kicked out" and "nothing surprises" him anymore.

Suarez, who won 13 trophies at Barca, said he was proud to have left such a positive impression.

"Leo knows me well and is well aware of my level of conviction. It's a source of pride to be able to leave a positive legacy behind me," he told reporters.

"I've now moved on and joining this competitive side is a major motivation."

Suarez scored 21 goals in 36 games last season, but new Barca coach Ronald Koeman had no room for the Uruguayan as he rebuilds the Blaugrana.

The forward said joining another big club in Spain was a huge motivation for him.

"The motivation of coming to a great from Spain, Atleti is," Suarez said. 

"It has great players, a competitive block that always fights to be at the top and for the league. 

"The fans and the coach [Diego Simeone] motivate a lot too."

Atletico begin their 2020-21 season at home to Granada on Sunday.

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  • Zidane hails returning Ramos: We know what Sergio represents Zidane hails returning Ramos: We know what Sergio represents

    Zinedine Zidane was delighted to be able to welcome back Sergio Ramos for the Clasico, with the Real Madrid captain starring at both ends at Camp Nou.

    Ramos had been substituted at half-time in last week's defeat to Cadiz and sat out the midweek meeting with Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, a second straight home reverse.

    But Madrid's form returned along with their skipper on Saturday as they beat bitter rivals Barcelona 3-1.

    Zidane's led through Federico Valverde's fifth-minute goal but were pegged back soon enough by Ansu Fati, who then had the Spanish champions on the back foot early in the second half.

    However, Ramos earned a penalty from an altercation with Clement Lenglet in the Barca box – a tug spotted by the VAR – and netted himself from 12 yards.

    That set the stage for Luka Modric to clinch the points in the 90th minute after Ramos had led a brave defensive effort.

    The World Cup winner's importance to Madrid is certainly not in doubt. Including the Shakhtar game, they have lost seven of their past eight Champions League games without him.

    "We know what Sergio is and what he represents, not only as a player," Zidane said.

    "He is always positive on the field and we always want him in our team. It is important for the team to see how he played today."

    Ramos made three tackles, four clearances, three interceptions and a block in defence, but his most telling contribution was in attack.

    The defender felt the penalty award was "very clear" but, while Barca coach Ronald Koeman was left disappointed, Zidane was reluctant to be drawn into such a discussion.

    "[The referee] went to look at the play and he called a penalty," Zidane said. "I never speak of the referees and I will not do it today either.

    "Regardless of this play, we deserved this victory, although Barca also had their chances."

  • Koeman searching for explanation for 'decisive' Ramos spot-kick Koeman searching for explanation for 'decisive' Ramos spot-kick

    Ronald Koeman said he hoped the use of VAR in LaLiga would be explained after a contentious Real Madrid penalty turned the tide in his first Clasico as Barcelona coach.

    Madrid ran out 3-1 winners at Camp Nou on Saturday but were on the back foot at 1-1 prior to a spot-kick awarded against Clement Lenglet.

    Sergio Ramos went down in dramatic fashion following a tug from Lenglet in the area, with the VAR then encouraging referee Juan Martinez Munuera to assess the incident.

    He awarded a penalty, which Ramos scored, but Koeman claimed the Madrid captain had first committed a foul.

    "Is it a penalty? For me, it is not a penalty," said Koeman, whose side cancelled out Federico Valverde's opener through Ansu Fati but saw any hopes of rescuing a result late on dashed by Luka Modric's goal.

    "I hope they can explain it to me about the use of VAR here in Spain. The VAR can be very good, but for all teams.

    "I have not spoken with Lenglet about the play. First, it is Ramos foul on Lenglet for taking him by the shirt. Once again, for me, it is not a penalty.

    "It is normal for Real Madrid players to do their best so that the referee awards a penalty.

    "I don't want to talk about this penalty anymore. What is clear is that it has been decisive in the game."

    The victory lifted Madrid above Real Sociedad to the top of LaLiga, while Barcelona sit 12th with two defeats, two wins and a draw from their five league matches under Koeman.

  • Imperious Ramos leaves us wondering exactly what Koeman's Barcelona are supposed to be Imperious Ramos leaves us wondering exactly what Koeman's Barcelona are supposed to be

    The past week showed everyone that Real Madrid are vulnerable. Everyone it seems, except Ronald Koeman.

    Consecutive defeats and some rather loud questions about the future of Zinedine Zidane meant Saturday's game at Camp Nou was one he dare not lose. For Koeman, this was a chance to go for the jugular, to show LaLiga and the watching world what improvements he has made to Barcelona since taking over in August.

    Instead, the first Clasico of the season was a commanding 3-1 win for Madrid, a bruising outing for Lionel Messi and a 90-minute showcase of how unclear the Koeman blueprint seems to be.

    He went, as expected, with Barca's first starting 4-2-3-1 in a Clasico since at least 2005-06, but his line-up was still puzzling. Ansu Fati is a rare talent with a robustness under pressure to match – and, of course, he scored here to cancel out Federico Valverde's opener – but Pedri, another 17-year-old, was chosen ahead of Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele as two of Barca's most expensive signings again began on the bench.

    The two France forwards are hardly untouchables in this side, but starting a player of such limited experience as Pedri was a gamble that didn't pay off. He completed 79.5 per cent of his passes, the lowest rate of any starting player for Barca, and failed to have a shot or create a chance. It was a surprise that it took until the 81st minute for Koeman to bring him off.

    By the time Griezmann and Dembele were summoned in the second half, with Barca chasing the game, it was too little, too late. Sergio Ramos, the major-general of Zidane's fiercest battles, had seen to that.

    The Madrid captain can claim to be the most critical asset to either side of this famous rivalry, Messi included. Zidane had insisted this week he would not use Ramos were he not 100 per cent fit, but it sounded a hollow threat. Those chastening defeats to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk had shown the boss that playing Ramos here was worth the risk.

    So it proved. Ramos made four clearances, three interceptions and one crucial block from a Philippe Coutinho effort at 2-1. He misplaced just three of 55 passes and completed all 15 of those attempted in the Barca half. When Clement Lenglet foolishly took a handful of his shirt to concede a penalty, there seemed only one outcome. Not even VAR delays can throw Ramos off his stride.

    He capped his display by stopping a late Messi run with an almost impudent back-foot challenge, the kind that will likely have fan accounts on social media sharing the footage every week until the reverse fixture.

    Still, even with their captain back in the team, this is a flawed and fragile Madrid, with no fit recognised right-backs and who had only scored six goals in five league games, yet Koeman's set-up left them an easy ride.

    After Messi had a shot well blocked by Thibaut Courtois 24 minutes in, Barca did not muster a single effort on target, meaning Luka Modric's composed late finish was scarcely even necessary. It was all too deep, too central and too slow; for Ramos and his fellow defenders, it was a picnic.

    It is still early in the season to write off Koeman's chances, but two wins from five games and a six-point gap to Madrid at the top – albeit with a game in hand – are sufficient warning signs of the task at hand.

    Ernesto Valverde's Barca were too rigid and Quique Setien's frighteningly open, but, after more than two months, we're no closer to knowing what kind of team Koeman's are.

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