Suarez outshone by fit again Neymar on Barcelona debut
Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez allowed to play in friendly after bite ban was modified in court
Luis Suarez and Neymar both appeared on a football pitch for the first time since the World Cup as Barcelona got their season underway with a 6-0 win over Mexico's FC Leon in a pre-season friendly at the Camp Nou.
The two men made controversial exits from the World Cup but have now returned to club duty. Neymar played the first 45 minutes of the match before being withdrawn and Suarez took his bow in the final quarter of an hour.
Neymar was last seen being stretchered off in Brazil's quarter final against Colombia with a fractured vertebrae. The injury prompted a spectacular outburst of mourning in Brazil that reached its nadir when his team-mates hoisted a Neymar jersey aloft during the national anthems ahead of the semi-final against Germany. The gesture did not pay off as the hosts were humiliated 7-1 by the eventual winners.
Suarez left the tournament rather less of a hero after biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. He was hit with a four-month ban from all football by Fifa, which was recently modified by the Court of Arbitration for sport to allow him to play in friendly matches. The ruling enabled him to don the Barca shirt for the first time since his £75m move from Liverpool against Club Leon. But he cannot play a competitive match until late October.
Despite the ban, the Uruguayan striker was paraded before the fans ahead of the match. "Suarez stepped out to a crackle of fireworks and a huge ovation from the packed lower tiers of the half-empty stadium," reports the Daily Telegraph.
However, it was Neymar who earned the plaudits, he looked "eager, quick [and] alert" says the paper as he scored twice in the first half.
By the time Suarez entered the fray both Neymar and Messi were off the field. "In truth it was not the most elevated of starts," says the Telegraph. "He looked a little sluggish, twice giving the ball away, not yet attuned to the pace of the game, a yard or two off full fitness."
The Independent was less charitable. He "hardly got a kick," it says. "With Neymar, back from his own World Cup horror injury, stealing the show with two fantastic goals and a slightly lucky assist."