Luis Suarez highlighted his close friendship with Lionel Messi as he bid a teary farewell to Barcelona ahead of his move to Atletico Madrid.
Messi had failed to dovetail with other top strikers such as Samuel Eto’o, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa but took no time at all to gel with Suarez, who became his best friend at the club as well as a prolific strike partner.
“When I got to Barcelona everyone said be careful with Leo, that he was the main striker at the club,” an emotional Suarez said at a news conference attended by Messi, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba.
“But in our time together we always tried to perform as well as we could and I can leave here feeling very proud.”
Messi also looked set to be leaving Barcelona before walking back on his threat to end his contract unilaterally, and Suarez lashed out at the stories that appeared in the media about the two players’ influence on the club.
“It has been a crazy month, many things have been said and leaked that were invented, many things that made me angry. But everyone knows how good a relationship I have with Leo,” the Uruguayan added.
Amid all the upheaval at Barca this summer surrounding Messi’s future, it emerged that Suarez did not feature in the plans of head coach Ronald Koeman, who replaced Quique Setien in August.
Suarez had appeared set to join Italian champions Juventus, but a move to Turin collapsed after complications over the Uruguayan’s passport application.
Barcelona signed Suarez from Liverpool in July 2014 for £74m, shortly after he had been banned for four months by FIFA for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup in Brazil.
He soon formed a deadly partnership with Messi and Neymar, winning a treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League in his first season.
Suarez leaves after lifting 13 trophies and hitting 198 goals to become the club’s third all-time top scorer.
“I’m grateful to the club for trusting in me in 2014 after I made an error, it wasn’t easy to accept that and they treated me marvellously since I arrived,” said Suarez.
“I came here to fulfil a dream, to play for the best club in the world and I should be very proud of everything I did.
“I suffered a lot but I’ll remember the good times, the goals I scored alongside the best player of all time.”
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu added: “He is a club legend, the third top scorer in our history, the best in his position.
“I want to highlight his character, his fighting spirit and his will to win which has helped us achieve so much in the last six years.”