In his latest Talking Reds column, Simon Steers outlines why Luis Suarez should be considered a genius and wonders whether the Liverpool No.7 can get even better in the years to come.
When Luis Suarez is at the top of his game, there is only one word that can be used to describe him - genius. He attempts things that only very few in world football would even dare to try; attempting is one thing, executing is another.
Suarez learned his trade on the streets of Uruguay and has developed a style that fuses desire, competitiveness, skill, trickery and technique with an incredible will to win. He isn't only the best player on the pitch, he is also the most competitive. Whether it's a friendly or the World Cup, his attitude is always the same. He just loves playing football.
The thing about Suarez is that he can literally score any kind of goal. Whether it is left foot, right foot, header, volley, free-kick or tap-in - Suarez can execute any of them.
Since Kenny Dalglish christened Suarez 'the wee man' you would be forgiven for thinking that he follows in the steps of two famous No.7s of the past in height; both Dalglish and Keegan were 5"8. But Suarez is actually 5"11; he has a very low centre of gravity for somebody a shade under six foot. And that height is another factor as to why he is probably one of the best strikers in the air in the Barclays Premier League.
There aren't many of his peers that excel in as many areas as Suarez; in fact, it is only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo that stand out as the two that share the same kind of individual brilliance that Suarez possesses.
Suarez the leader
It isn't just Suarez's football ability that stands out, it is also his leadership quality. Suarez is a natural leader on the pitch; he demands the best from those around him, he is vocal and a real presence in the squad. He looks to have 'infectious enthusiasm' - if a player of his quality demands 110 per cent from himself every training session and every game, it has to inspire the players around him.
Another sign of his leadership quality is his desire to take responsibility for the team. He is one of those players that you can 'turn to' if you are in need of a goal or a piece of magic. He has that ability to make things happen out of nothing. Who else in the Premier League would have attempted and executed a 40-yard half-volley?
Suarez the genius
Sometimes a player comes along that you should just sit back and enjoy - Luis Suarez is one of those players. He makes the difficult look easy, and he makes the impossible look possible. He can be an impulsive player, and he is one of the best improvisers I have ever seen. Not many players would even attempt to bury a header into the top corner from the edge of the box.
A lot is made of Suarez's ability to beat defenders and anticipate where the ball will arrive as it deflects off opposition players, and that doesn't happen by accident. Suarez will have perfected that art playing street football. Everything he does in a game he does for a reason; whilst he can be impulsive, he also has the ability to paint a picture in his head, putting him two steps ahead of a defender.
The definition of a genius in the Oxford Dictionary is 'exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability'. There can be little argument that Luis Suarez falls into that category.
The best ever?
Liverpool FC has been blessed with great footballers over the years, who have all achieved great things. It is difficult to look beyond Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard as the two greatest players in the club's history, especially with the haul of trophies they have won between them.
But there is a case that Luis Suarez is the greatest individual player we have ever seen at Anfield. He hasn't yet been at the club long enough to contribute to our trophy-laden heritage, although he has won the Carling Cup under Dalglish, but his performances in a red shirt have been breathtaking on a consistent basis.
Some of his individual performances stand up to the great performances of the past. It is often the case that when Suarez plays well, we win. He has that much influence on a game.
Nobody knows what the future holds, but if Suarez stays on the same trajectory, he will go down as one of Liverpool Football Club's all-time greats.
Top three in the world?
Suarez plundered 81 goals in 110 games for Ajax prior to joining Liverpool; he has also scored 39 goals in 71 games for Uruguay (a better international strike rate than Messi and Ronaldo). So far he has scored 66 goals in 107 games for Liverpool. That is an incredible record both at club and international level.
There is little argument that Messi and Ronaldo have no peers as the two best players in the world at this moment. Both average more than a goal a game at club level, and have been the driving force behind success at Barcelona and Real Madrid.
But Steven Gerrard is right when he says that Luis Suarez isn't far behind those two, when comparing individual ability. Messi and Ronaldo are both surrounded by players that would likely walk into most sides in Europe, whereas Suarez is part of an exciting young Liverpool squad that is growing and improving all the time. There is more responsibility on Suarez to deliver every game.
Suarez's record at international level is also better than both Messi and Ronaldo.
In my opinion, Suarez is the third best player in the world at the moment.
Room for improvement?
The scary thing about Luis Suarez is that he keeps getting better. His conversion rate in his first season was 7.3 per cent, 2011-12 was 8.6 per cent, last season was 12.3 per cent, and so far this season 25 per cent. That is a huge improvement over four seasons.
(Statistics shown above do not include Saturday's win against West Ham United)
Credit has to go to both Suarez and Brendan Rodgers for somehow getting even more out of him. Suarez is now being more efficient with his chances, and is clearly improving his finishing. But how much better can he get?
According to Rodgers there is still room for him to improve. He is only 26, so just about to enter his prime years as a footballer - which are likely to be 27-31.
Those four years will probably see the very best of Luis Suarez. It isn't just improvements in his game; it is more maturity and experience that will help channel his desire to win.