On Tuesday evening, former Liverpool attacking midfielder Suso will take on Arsenal with Sevilla, and the now 29-year-old Spaniard’s return to England for the match brought with it an opportunity to reflect on his career—and his time as a Red.
For Suso, it’s a time he still looks back fondly on despite a string of managerial changes as the club moved from Rafa Benitez to Kenny Dalglish to Brendan Rodgers. If he had a chance to do it over, though, he might make a few different choices along the way.
“We had agreed everything verbally with Madrid,” Suso said, reflecting on his decision to spurn the Spanish capital for Liverpool as a 17-year-old. “We had been there to see the residency, the schools, the training ground, everything.
“That same day, [Liverpool] called and said, ‘Don’t go there.’ It was a period where young players in Spain weren’t getting opportunities, whereas in England they played the Carling Cup, the FA Cup. As a project and a culture, it attracted me more.
“Opportunities in Spain were always there; maybe the chance to join Liverpool was only going to be once in a lifetime. I had always lived at home with my parents and going somewhere so far away, so different to Cádiz, was a big change.”
Amongst trying to figure out a new language—with Suso noting he was able to understand Steven Gerrard’s Scouse accent better than Jamie Carragher’s—and changing managers, Suso eventually became a squad option for Brendan Rodgers.
In 2013, though, at the age of 20 he decided regular playing time would be better for his development than a squad role. The plan at the time was to return to Liverpool in a year ready to contribute, but the reality didn’t quite work out that way.
“Brendan was the closest thing to a Spanish coach, his way of playing, the tactical plans,” Suso added of his final years at the club. “He was a brave, giving me and Raheem Sterling a debut. Brendan said, ‘Stay here, I’m going to keep counting on you.’
“But when you’re young maybe you don’t think things through fully, don’t have the patience. I wanted to go to a team where I could play every game and come back more mature. Maybe if I was in that situation again now I wouldn’t do the same.
“When I returned I had one year left. I wanted to renew and Liverpool wanted me to but Milan were rejuvenating their squad. I had been at Liverpool four years and was happy but Milan was also a big club. If it had been another I might not have left.”