Every coach has his pupil and Luis Suárez was Helenio Herrera’s. The son of a Galician butcher, he was the heart and brain of the ‘Wizard’s’ team. Blessed with footballing intelligence that was out of the ordinary, ‘Luisito’ was like the crucial piece in a winning move of chess, the cog that made the whole machine work. That was how he presented himself at Inter in 1961 when he arrived with the reputation of being the ‘Architect of Football.’
He arrived from Spain where he’d won trophies and impressed people, claiming the Ballon d’Or in 1960. It was a golden move for Barcelona as well who sold him to the Nerazzurri for an exorbitant fee of 25 million Pesetas , around 250 million Lire at the time. Thanks to the sale of Suárez, the Catalans were able to finalise the construction of their stadium. He repaid the investment with his superb vision and two cultured feet that could pick out precise passes. Herrera gave him the keys to the midfield and Suárez picked out his teammates with inch-perfect balls as he dispensed assists regularly. His sublime touch allowed him to beat opponents while his body feints and shots right into the corner allowed him to score goals himself.
Along with his inherent class, ‘Luisito’ lived as a true athlete and had an intense work ethic, training even on days off. His secret was supposed to be in a suitcase with mysterious contents with some saying that it contained salumi and cheese to add to the rigid diet imposed by the coach. Above all, Suárez brought his own baggage, the international experience which allowed Inter to win in Europe. Before the 1964 European Cup final in Vienna against Real Madrid, his teammates looked timidly at their opponents in fear before the ‘architect’ found the right words to bring them back to life. “Guys, we’re here to beat them, not ask for an autograph.”