Luis Suarez has “matured a great deal” and is primed to lead Uruguay’s assault on the World Cup, coach Oscar Tabarez said on the eve of their opening game in Russia.
Barcelona striker Suarez, a controversial figure who has had numerous run-ins with football authorities throughout his career, was thrown out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and subsequently banned for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
It was his third biting ban and cemented his place as one of the bad boys — albeit a supremely talented one — of world football.
But now 31 and happily settled and scoring goals at the Camp Nou, Tabarez believes Uruguay are seeing the best of Suarez as a player and a person.
“Luis Suarez is no doubt more mature now and he has matured a great deal,” said Tabarez, the 71-year-old veteran who leads a Uruguayan side tipped as possible finalists in Russia by some.
“What happened in Brazil is part of real life and of course a lesson to achieve more maturity not only as a footballer but also in other parts of his life, such as his family.
“He’s got the right mindset for this World Cup and he is meeting all my expectations. In addition to being a great player, he is very smart, very intelligent and we are going to really capitalise on him.”