El Chupete rides again
Just a few months ago, Humberto Suazo's Mexican footballing adventure looked to be over. A proven goal machine for former club Colo Colo, the Chilean striker had struggled to adapt to life with Monterrey and was poised to make a hasty exit through the backdoor.
A paltry haul of three goals from 12 games showed just how difficult El Chupete was finding life in the Mexican top flight. While Suazo's talents were there for everyone to see, his confidence had clearly deserted him, a fact reflected by his below-par performances on international duty. A key figure for La Roja, the striker's loss of form was graphically illustrated when Paraguay swamped Suazo and Co 3-0 in Santiago last November.
With the 26-year-old's career having seemingly taken a wrong turn, Argentinian club San Lorenzo came in with an offer that the Monterrey board was happy to accept. The Chilean sharpshooter was equally keen to move on and start afresh, but the deal ground to a halt when San Lorenzo failed to get the transfer fee together in time, leaving Suazo seemingly stranded in Mexico. As it turned out, though, it was the best thing that could have happened to him.
After accepting that his immediate future lay with the Primera Division outfit, he set about proving his critics wrong. Suazo even set up a press conference and made a clear statement of intent to the assembled media. "I feel like I'm a different player now and I really can't wait to start playing again. ."
Suazo did nonetheless accept his share of the blame for not settling in. "I'm going to change a little, talk a little bit less to the press," he announced. "I'm also going to bring my family here to Monterrey to live with me. Having my children, my wife, my mum and everyone else beside me is going to help me a lot, for sure."
Happy days return
The change in fortunes was immediate. Chupete opened his account for the season on Matchday 2, grabbing his side's equaliser in a 1-1 draw away to Puebla. But that was just the start, and in 14 games so far this term, he has amassed ten goals in all, including a four-goal haul against Veracruz two weeks ago.
In doing so he has become a firm favourite with the fans, and just a few months after planning an inglorious departure, Suazo now has designs on making his mark in Monterrey. And if he does depart for pastures new one day, then his only destination will be one of Europe's big clubs.
"I think I'm doing well here and, if I carry on scoring
goals, that's going to open a lot of doors for me. Things are
working out for me now and the only thing I'm thinking about is
fulfilling my contract.
Naturally, everyone at the club is delighted with his sudden return to form, especially Monterrey boss Ricardo La Volpe. "I've said it before and I'll say it again - there's no doubt in my mind Suazo can become a star," enthused the former Mexico coach. "If he wants to, he can become our linchpin up front. He's a powerful player who can unsettle defences and put chances away in a flash."
News of Suazo's resurgence has been warmly received in Chile too. Legendary sharpshooter Marcelo Salas sees the man from Monterrey as one of his heirs in the national team, and coach Marcelo Bielsa named him in a three-man attack in the recent friendly against Israel. In fact, the only people who are less than enthusiastic about the return of El Chupete are the defenders who will have to try and contain him in the coming months.