Luis Suarez has told ESPN that Lionel Messi’s exclusion from the shortlist for FIFA’s The Best means nothing because his Barcelona teammate continually shows why he’s the best on the pitch.
Five-time World Player of the Year Messi was the surprise omission when the three finalists were named last week, with Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamad Salah the players up for the award later this month.
“I don’t think that any award [Messi] does or doesn’t win takes anything away from what he has won and what he keeps on achieving,” Suarez said.
“It’s just like when I was scoring goals and deserved [to win] things, I was above all that. You prove yourself by working hard, with what you do in every game.
“The prizes that are worth more are the ones you win on the pitch. An example of that is being top scorer: no one can take that away from you because you won it with the goals you scored, proving yourself on the pitch, not because of a vote by players and journalists.”
Suarez, 31, is now in his fifth season at Camp Nou, during which time he has struck up a special relationship on and off the pitch with “close friend” Messi, who is missing from FIFA’s three-man shortlist for the first time since 2006.
“There are times when you don’t even need to look at him because you know he is going to put the ball where you want it,” the Uruguayan striker added of his chemistry with the Argentine on the pitch.
“There are times when you see a space that you can take advantage of and you don’t even have to tell him because he’s already seen it.
“That’s why, for many people, and for me, he is the best player in history — because of what he signifies as a player and for what he’s done in the game. You don’t need to tell him anything because he sees everything.”
Ronaldo is up for The Best having won it in each of the last two seasons but if he wins it this year he would do so as a Juventus player for the first time.
Suarez admits he was surprised to see the Portuguese forward leave Real Madrid but doesn’t expect it to have too much of an effect on the Clasico rivalry this season.
“Obviously it came as a little surprise because of how good things had gone for him in Madrid, everything he had won there and how Madrid had helped him grow as a player,” he said.
“So it surprises you a bit, but that’s football for you. One day you can say that you are happy where you are and the next day things may change. It’s a decision which must be respected, [it was] taken for a reason.
“But we are in the Spanish league and we’re competing against Real Madrid, Atletico, Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal and all the other teams.
“We’re not competing against one player. One player can make a difference or can make a team better, but the reality is that we expect to be playing against the best Madrid possible, against the best Atletico and against the best teams and players.”
Playing against the best in La Liga and the Champions League week in, week out, though, comes with huge amounts of pressure.
Suarez concedes the number of games and the demands at Barcelona to keep on winning make it tough to enjoy the moment at times, but he would not have it any other way.
“It’s not that Barcelona players feel a lot of pressure, but being at Barcelona limits the possibility of enjoying the match you won on Sunday because on Wednesday you already have another one,” he said.
“And if on Wednesday you win a Champions League semifinal or a quarterfinal, you can’t enjoy it because on Saturday or Sunday you have another game. It is the continuous pressure that you put on yourself to perform at an elite level.
“In the long run, you start to remember [the good moments]. But many times you’re unable to enjoy the moment itself because you are competing at the top level of the game. But it’s also nice to live with that pressure because it enables you to live through incredible moments.”