“Of course it was a huge mistake,” Diego Forlan says. “As soon as Barcelona said he was for sale, I knew it was a mistake.”
Forlan goes back a long way with Luis Suarez, to 2007 when he set up Suarez’s first goal for Uruguay and to 2013, when Suarez set up Forlan’s last.
“I was the old one when he started so he was always coming to me and asking questions,” Forlan tells AFP. “Now it’s the other way round.”
They spoke last summer when Barcelona decided in the wake of the 8-2 mauling by Bayern Munich that Suarez would be let go, not sold but released, and not to a team far away but to Atletico Madrid.
“All I know is it wasn’t about his performances on the pitch,” said Forlan.
“I messaged him and said, ‘listen you’re not the first and you won’t be the last. You have to keep being yourself. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone so just keep doing it at Atletico Madrid.’
“But when you get punished for something you didn’t do, when you’re still in great shape, playing well, of course your aim is going to be to show that you can still perform.”
Suarez has played like proving them wrong is everything, his 16 goals filling Atletico’s goalscoring gap and propelling them to the top of La Liga.
On Sunday, they face Real Madrid, who are five points behind having played a game more, and who have scoring problems of their own, this weekend without the injured Karim Benzema, and more generally, since Cristiano Ronaldo left in 2018.
“Barcelona are missing Luis, it’s like when Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid,” Forlan says.
“It was not just Cristiano Ronaldo leaving, one of the best players in the history of football. It is 50 goals leaving as well.
“So if you sell a player like Ronaldo or Suarez, you have to replace them with two players and then there’s risk because they have to adapt.
“As soon as Cristiano left it was never going to be easy for Real Madrid and for Barcelona now it’s the same.”