Luis Suárez (La Coruña, 1935), the only player born in Spain with a Ballon d’Or (1960), has lived with his wife for 30 years in a flat in a simple neighborhood two steps from San Siro. The architect of the best Inter in history liked being close to his people, to the club of his loves. On the way to the bar where he talks for an hour with EL PAÍS, a place run by Chinese in a small shopping center, the kids stop him, take selfies and listen with admiration to what he tells them in perfect Italian that, if you close your eyes, It sounds like Galician. Tomorrow their two teams meet again in the Champions League. “There is hope,” he explains. But he is a little disappointed by Inter’s business directions, which, like the coffee bar, have found new owners on the other side of the world. “They don’t even know who we are because they don’t have a soccer culture. One day someone will tell them to call me because it’s my birthday, ”he jokes as the Chinese waitress brings him his usual cappuccino and calls him by name.
Question. Inter and Milan, two symbols of the old Italian economic power, are now owned by Asian businessmen. What impact has that had?
Answer. Roots and identity are lost. They come to do their business, but they are not interested in soccer or Inter. People keep going because they see the shirt and if they win, they are shooting. Now nothing can be done, we don’t know how it will end. They don’t know that to charge 100 euros more for a subscription, you have to have a good team. They have been lucky with this coach, who is taking him on the right track.
A world that has nothing to do with ours has entered football. We no longer know what we will die of.
P. When all companies seek fans, teams treat their fans as customers.
R. That’s where it looks like they are. They think about attracting people who like soccer to sell their products, not Inter’s. We had always triumphed without that, and the team won world championships. But here they have been excessively carried away. A world that has nothing to do with ours has entered football. We no longer know what we will die of.
Luis Suárez, during the interview in Milan. Nanni Fontana
P. How has the club changed since the Moratti left?
R. First an Indonesian came and showed what was coming. He bought it at a low price in a time of need and then sold a good piece. Here they don’t even come to matches anymore and they have taken the name of Angelo Moratti from the sports center to put theirs. Notice, when they arrived, they lent money to Inter with an interest of 10%. And nobody said anything! We just ask that it go well.
P. How do you see this game?
R. People are happy, there will be a lot of atmosphere. But Inter are now a good team, not a great team. He can’t think of winning this competition yet, but the illusion is to have a good championship and next year to try to build a competitive team.
P. Is there as much difference between the two teams as it seemed in the first leg?
R. If many. Perhaps now it will be less noticeable, because Inter will throw the rest and Barcelona may rest a little. But there are five or six teams far superior to Inter today in this competition.
Barça could do more to retain me. I would have stayed
P. What has Ernesto Valverde contributed to Barça?
R. It has come at a difficult time. The most important thing, after Cruyff, was provided by Guardiola and coming after him was difficult. At times Luis Enrique accomplished very good things. But Valverde is late and the same players that the others had are not there. A Catalan base of a level that was not normal.
P. The coach would also influence.
R. Sure! But the tactic is fixed, it is not mobile. And then when you go to the field and the referee whistles, they all start moving. [Se ríe] And who do you depend on? Look, the great players serve so that when the game does not go as the coach has prepared, and that is 99.99% of the time, they fix it. He is already lucky if the one who passes by listens to him. The one from the other band, do you think he hears something? And in that, Barcelona had some wonderful years.
P. Inter and Barça have been two antagonistic football models, but you succeeded in both.
R. Inter had a completely different way of playing, especially when I arrived. There were markings to the man, the libero behind … I came from Barça where an attacking football was already being played and we had scored 100 goals. Here I lowered my scoring average a lot, I sacrificed myself to be able to win titles.
P. And wasn’t he happier playing at Barça?
R. A little more. But if you know how to play you always have fun. And if you win, even more. I was lucky to do a lot.
P. Those two game models were very clearly seen in the Champions League tie with Mourinho in 2010.
R. Yes, they were both extremes. And Mourinho is very intelligent and knew that, despite having a good team, he could not compete 100% against Barça. And he managed to win. Look, if the game is nice and you don’t win, people get tired. But the ideal is what Guardiola did.
P. Do you like your football?
R. It is technical football and, in fact, the Dutch started it. He was touching things in his own way. It was quality football because it had great players. After four or five passes I would have gotten tired and looked for something deeper. [se ríe]
P. Is Iniesta the player closest to you?
When they gave me the Ballon d’Or they didn’t invite me or have a snack ”
R. Technically yes. But Pirlo was more like the way of interpreting the games. He had a very wide football. Not only did he make the short, and he had more goals than Iniesta. I brought him to Inter. But then they ended up giving it to Milan, they gave Pirlo and Seedorf, and they sent us here to an Argentine. They did the same with Ronaldo. They thought he was not going to recover and then he won a World Cup.
P. You and he were the great robberies of Series A to the League. Today that would no longer be possible.
R. Now those from here are going to Spain. Cristiano came, but it was not a question of money. I came to Inter myself, which was a normal team.
P. Why did you leave Barcelona?
R. Barça had some financial need. But also, the hobby created a rivalry between Kubala and me and they took it with me. All the supporters of Kubala, who was the whole crowd, naturally, went against me. They whistled at me in every game, it was amazing. I won the Ballon d’Or in 1960 with Barça, but they kept doing it. And Helenio Herrera, who left a year earlier, said to Moratti: “Do you want to win? Well bring me this player. ” It was necessity and the situation created.
P. So could Barcelona have done more?
R. Yes. It was enough that he put things in their place and I would have stayed. But I couldn’t go out into the field every day and have 100,000 people whistle at me. Of mine! Maybe that’s why he scored more away from home.
P. How did you digest it?
R. It was not a normal situation. And when I went to the national team and sat down to eat with Di Stefano, he would say to me: “Che Gallego, if they don’t want you, come to Madrid.” But then the players did not go where we wanted. I would have stayed in Barcelona with my colleagues and the city was perfect. And I played well …
P. Are you obsessed with a play or game from that time?
R. The final of the European Cup in Bern with Barcelona (1961). It was my last game and of the three finals I played, it was the one I should have won for how everything went. I was very bad. Every time I hear someone complaining about a stick, I think we throw four and one, even double. It was a curse.
Messi’s Barça have had a team to have won more
P. You won the Ballon d’Or and went silver twice. Did you become obsessed with that award as it happens today?
R. No way! You didn’t think about these things then. Advertising was infinitely less. When they gave it to me, the director of L’Équipe came to a League game: he gave it to me, I gave it to the masseur and he took it to the locker room when we started. They did not offer dinner or a snack or snack. Nothing. The change has been brutal. The sports brands of the player and the team take advantage to get a slice.
P. How can it be that no other Spaniard has won it?
R. Iniesta should have won it. He won the League and the World Cup, scoring the decisive goal. But that trophy has weird things.
P. You gave Inter two Champions and almost a third. Say Stéfano five to Madrid. Has Barça missed Messi?
R. Barça have had a team to win more, but the direct elimination has these things.
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