By Victor Vago
Luis Suarez has fallen victim to "jealous" rivals while playing for Liverpool and Uruguay, according to the president of his country's Football Association, Sebastian Bauza.
Suarez has gained something of a reputation since moving to Anfield in 2010, having been banned for eight matches for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra later that year, and then for 10 matches for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic back in April.
But Bauza, who is in regular contact with Suarez, believe the striker's opponents have colluded to put pressure on referees and create an inaccurate perception.
"In the case of Suarez, those who have to play against Liverpool or the Uruguayan national team, in the first place they try to protect themselves off the pitch, saying, for example, that he’s a diver, as a way of pressuring referees before matches," he told Goal.
"Besides, there’s a lot of jealousy, and they say the same about Neymar. But on the pitch, it can’t be ignored that the great stars of world football get kicked a lot, trying to prevent them from having an impact.
"I’m fully aware of the atmosphere with referees, as in the end they’re also football people and I can assure you that Suarez is an idol on and off the pitch and even the referees themselves admire him, as they’re conscious of all the blows he receives in every game.
"In English football, Liverpool’s rivals are jealous because they don’t have a player of Suarez’s class, as he’s one of the best strikers in the world."
Suarez, whose 10-match club ban did not prevent him from playing for his national team, was once more at the centre of controversy earlier in September when he was accused of diving twice in a World Cup qualifier against Peru.
But Bauza blasted: "In Peru they said Suarez is a diver, but they also tried to make a war of the match beforehand, so the media published a photo of the Peruvian player [Juan Manuel] Vargas holding a revolver and pointing it at a celeste [Uruguay’s light blue] shirt, with a title 'kill or die'. Football is a game and not a war. However in Lima they didn’t understand it that way."
The Liverpool striker was keen to leave Anfield for a Champions League club this summer, but has remained on Merseyside after his suitors failed to meet the Reds' asking price.
Arsenal's bid of £40 million plus £1, which they wrongly believed would trigger a release clause in the Uruguayan's contract, was swiftly rejected, and Bauza maintains that Suarez would not have been sold to another Premier League side under any circumstances.
"I’m convinced that the day Suarez changes club, he can’t do it to another club in England, in which case he will have to go and play in another country," he continued.
"As for the decision to continue at Liverpool, he feels protected, so it’s good that he stays. It’s a good response from Suarez to those who love him and protect him, in a hostile environment born of jealousy."
Though Suarez, who scored 30 goals last season and was voted third-best player in the Premier League, has flourished despite these perceived injustices, the same cannot be said for his fellow Uruguayan Sebastian Coates. The defender, 22, has failed to secure a regular place in the Liverpool team since joining in 2011 and is currently out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
"He found it hard to adapt," Bauza continued. "He should have played for a lesser European club, to get regular games and then go to Liverpool. Like Suarez did when he first played for Ajax in Netherlands and then moved to English football."