Suarez joins Atletico: How much does forward have left to give?

By Dejan Kalinic 24 September 2020 49
Suarez joins Atletico: How much does forward have left to give?

While the focus is on Barcelona, Atletico Madrid should be getting immediate improvement with the arrival of Luis Suarez.

After six trophy-laden seasons at Camp Nou, Suarez's €6million move from Barca to Atletico was confirmed on Wednesday.

As Ronald Koeman's rebuild continues at Barcelona, one of their former stars heads to Atletico.

And Diego Simeone's team should get an instant reward as we assess Suarez's move using Opta data.

Immediate improvement for Atletico?

Amid the links to Suarez, Atletico allowed Alvaro Morata to return to Juventus – initially on loan – and Diego Costa could also reportedly leave. There is little wonder Atletico chased Suarez when comparing his albeit declining output last season to the Los Rojiblancos' two forwards.

Suarez scored a LaLiga goal every 125.1 minutes in 2019-20, comfortably better than Morata (175.3) and Costa (270.2), finishing with 16 – almost as many as the Atletico duo (17) combined. Taking away penalties, Suarez scored 15 to their 13.

It came despite a knee injury that sidelined Suarez for five months at the start of the year, limiting him to 28 LaLiga appearances and 22 starts.

Still, Suarez had 63 shots, more than Morata (57) and Costa (32), who made 34 and 23 league appearances respectively, with Barca netting a LaLiga-high 86 times in 2019-20 as Atletico found the back of the net on just 51 occasions.

Suarez converted 10 of his 25 big chances, a better rate than Morata (10 of 28), but worse than Costa (five of 10). Unsurprisingly given Barca's approach, Suarez also had more assists (eight) than Morata and Costa combined (six).

And it could have been an even better campaign for Suarez, who hit the woodwork four times in LaLiga. Only Osasuna midfielder Roberto Torres (six) and Real Madrid star Karim Benzema (five) hit it more.

Suarez, who turns 34 in January, may be declining, but he shapes as a shrewd signing by Atletico. He is, of course, declining from a player who produced an incredible 2015-16 season, when he scored 40 goals and provided 16 assists in 35 LaLiga games to lead the formidable 'MSN' trident that included Lionel Messi and Neymar.

Finding form again in the Champions League

Atletico have fallen heartbreakingly short in two Champions League finals since 2014, and were knocked out at the same stage as Barcelona – the quarter-finals – last season.

Suarez had struggled in Europe's top club competition in two seasons before 2019-20, scoring just twice in 20 Champions League appearances.

In fact, Suarez was directly involved in just eight goals in those 20 games, but he improved on that last season, scoring five and assisting two in seven outings.

Morata, meanwhile, scored three times and had an assist in eight appearances, while Costa was goalless in seven. Suarez also converted four of his six big chances, while creating 11 chances – the same number as Real Madrid playmaker Eden Hazard and just two fewer than Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.

Plenty would need to go right for Atletico to end their Champions League wait in 2020-21, but Suarez at least recaptured some better form in Europe last season.

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Dejan Kalinic

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