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Born: Thursday 2 May 1935, A Coruña, Spain
Position: Inside Forward/Attacking Midfielder
Part of the team which won Spain's first ever major tournament title at the 1964 European Championship, Luis Suárez Miramontes was one of the finest attacking playmakers of the 1960s. In addition to international success, he also played a part in two of the finest club sides of the era in Europe, firstly starring for Barcelona and then moving to Internazionale where he was a member of the famous 'Grande Inter' team.
Suárez was born in A Coruña in Galicia on 2 May 1935, joining the reserve team of Deportivo de La Coruña at the age of 14. He was an extremely gifted all-round player, a skilful dribbler and accurate passer who played the game with real style and also had a powerful shot, allowing him regularly to contribute crucial goals. Suárez broke in to the first team at Deportivo midway through the 1953-54 season, his debut coming in a heavy defeat to Barcelona.
That season he appeared in 17 games for Deportivo, scoring three goals, but had attracted the attention of Barcelona and it was not long before he was on the move. Joining Barcelona in the summer of 1954, Suárez took a while to establish himself in the first team but once he did, became a pivotal member of the team. The early part of his career at Barcelona was characterised by just missing out on major honours, as Real Madrid dominated the Spanish game.
When Barcelona did win a major trophy, the Copa del Generalísimo in 1957, Suárez did not appear in the final. That year he also broke into the national team, but suffered further disappointment when despite scoring two goals in three qualifying matches, he saw Spain fail to reach the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Towards the end of the 1957-58 season, Barcelona appointed Helenio Herrera as manager, a decision which proved to be the turning point of Suárez's time at the club.
In Herrera's first season, Barcelona won the league and cup double with Suárez scoring a career-high 14 league goals. Another league title followed in 1960, along with the first ever Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, with Suárez being named European Footballer of the Year. In 1960-61, Barcelona faced rivals Real Madrid in the second round of the European Cup and having trailed 2-0 in Madrid, Suárez scored twice late on to earn a vital draw. Barcelona eventually won the tie 4-3 on aggregate, Real's first ever European Cup defeat, before going on to reach the final where they were beaten 3-2 by Benfica.
That match was the biggest disappointment of Suárez's time at Barcelona and ultimately proved to be his last game for the club. With manager Herrera moving to Italy to take charge of Internazionale in the summer of 1961, Suárez went with him in a deal which made him the most expensive player in the world at the time. The move was controversial in Spain, where few players moved abroad, but Suárez relished the chance to succeed in another country.
In his time with Herrera at Barcelona, Suárez had been a regular goalscorer from an inside-forward position but at Inter, had to redefine his game. The team was built around first and foremost being strong defensively, with Suárez dropped into a deeper-lying midfield role. His goalscoring rate dropped dramatically, but he was still allowed the freedom to use his passing ability to build many of his team's attacks, earning himself the nickname 'the architect'.
Suárez played in the World Cup for the first time in Chile in 1962, appearing in Spain's first two games but missing the final group game against Brazil which without him the team lost and were knocked out of the competition. The following season however proved to be the beginning of the greatest period of his career. With Herrera's solid 'Catenaccio' tactics proving highly effective, Suárez and Inter embarked on a period of domination in domestic and European football.
In his second season in Italy, Suárez won his first Serie A title when Inter finished four points clear of Juventus. City rivals AC had won the European Cup that year and in 1963-64 Inter were keen to emulate that success. They reached the final against Real Madrid, who had beaten AC in the quarter-finals, and won 3-1 to claim a first European title. Just weeks later, Suárez joined up with the Spanish squad as they prepared to host the European Championship.
The senior member of a young Spanish squad, he controlled the game in both the semi-final against Hungary and the final against the Soviet Union, orchestrating most of Spain's most dangerous attacks. Creating goals in both matches, Suárez inspired Spain to win both matches 2-1 and claim the first international trophy in their history. At the end of 1964, he also won the Intercontinental Cup with Inter to complete a fantastic year.
Suárez won his second Serie A title with Inter in 1965, missing out on a domestic double only after losing the Coppa Italia final to Juventus. Defending their European title, Inter overcame a 3-1 first leg deficit to beat Liverpool in the semi-final, before defeating Benfica in the final to keep hold of the trophy for another year. Their attempt to complete a hat-trick of titles ended when they lost to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals in 1965-66, but did manage to retain both the Intercontinental Cup and the Serie A title, their third championship in four seasons.
Suárez appeared in his second World Cup in 1966, where after losing to Argentina, a win over Switzerland gave Spain a chance of a quarter-final place. Needing to beat West Germany, they led in the first half but the Germans turned the match around to win 2-1, knocking Spain out. Apart from a one-off appearance at the end of his playing career in 1972, that match marked the end of Suárez's international career.
In 1966-67 Inter reached the European Cup final again, but Suárez had picked up an injury and was forced to miss the game against Celtic. Without him, Inter were beaten 2-1 and their years of dominance came to an end, failing to win another trophy during Suárez's time at the club. That period came to an end in 1970 as the 35-year old Suárez left to join Sampdoria, where he ended his playing career with three relatively unspectacular seasons.
Having retired, Suárez began a coaching career although he would later admit he wasn't really well suited that that role. He took charge of a number of Italian clubs including both Inter and Sampdoria, as well as a season back with his first club, Deportivo La Coruña. In the early 1980s he spent two years coaching the Spanish under-21 team and in 1988, was given the job of leading the full national team to the World Cup in Italy.
Spain qualified easily and won their first round group at the finals, but in the second round were beaten 2-1 by Yugoslavia after extra-time. From that point on Suárez's time in charge went downhill. With Spain struggling in qualification for the 1992 European Championships, he left the job in the summer of 1991. Suárez later returned to Inter, having a couple of spells as caretaker-manager in the 1990s and later working as a scout and as technical secretary.
References (all accessed 21 October 2012):
- Published on Sunday, 21 October 2012 22:26