Changed man Luis Suarez quietly convincing Nou Camp crowd?
Stop the press. Barcelona forward and headline magnet Luis Suarez is finally attracting attention for all the right reasons again.
The infamous Uruguay international has found himself in the unusual position of supporting actor since his summer switch to Camp Nou, but is finally flourishing in Lionel Messi’s shadow, using the superstar’s elevated status as a help rather than hindrance.
Used to being the leading man with former clubs Ajax and Liverpool, as well as La Albiceleste, it appears the tabloid target is relishing not being the centre of attention.
Superb Suarez (3/1 to fire home first against next opponents Levante) not only had to contend with a delayed debut and impromptu sabbatical before beginning life with Barca in earnest, but has also had to adapt to the famed Nou Camp philosophy.
Not everyone slips so seamlessly into the Spanish giants’ starting XI, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic can attest, and Suarez also seemed to struggle initially.
Fighting for form and fitness after his enforced absence for his bout, or bite, of bad World Cup behaviour, Suarez looked rusty around the edges and far from his sharp Liverpool self.
After initially underwhelming the critical Nou Camp support in the face of his hefty reported £75m price tag and Reds scoring reputation, fans could have been forgiven for thinking they had overpaid.
However, the controversial Albiceleste hero has gone about his business in a quietly competent way, slowly but surely adapting to his new surroundings and teammates, proving critics wrong.
Gone is the explosive attacker who enthralled Anfield with both his ability and impulsiveness, and in his place is much more thoughtful and cultured player.
Hints of Suarez’s penchant for the audacious still remain as the striker emerges from his shell, with a cheeky lob or long range scorcher promising more to come.
In the meantime, however, Barca fans should be thrilled with their summer signing’s contribution to the cause, as Suarez has supported his side’s resurgence with six goals and 12 assists in 20 outings.
It is the latter stat that impresses, and Suarez’s intelligence in the final third was on evidence to great effect last time out against Villarreal.
The 79-capped striker hustled the Yellow Submarine into error, before presenting Messi his opportunity on a plate, in a passage of play that summed up his intent to integrate perfectly.
It was a performance that underlined the 28-year-old’s increasing influence nicely, and his growing understanding with fellow forwards Messi and Neymar.
The trio have been interchanging with increasing fluidity and confidence, which should be sending warning signs to title rivals Real Madrid.
As Barca continue to pressure the league leaders, can their terrific attacking triumvirate compete with the lauded forward line of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema?
The stats certainly suggest so, as Luis Enrique’s talented trio have been responsible for eight of the team’s last 14 goals, which is comparable to Real’s fab three bagging nine out of the same number.
Meanwhile, cracks begin to have appeared at the Bernabeu with rumours suggesting both Benzema and Bale could be primed for summer exits.
Always favouring teamwork over the individual, this could be Barcelona’s chance to capitalise, and Suarez may just be the surprise poster boy for their unselfish, slick play.
If the striker continues to sharpen his scoring boots as well as create, the Catalan outfit are great value at 11/2 to lift the Champions League.