SUSO

Soccer 360 - - Inside -

FROM BE­ING SUR­PLUS TO RE­QUIRE­MENTS AT LIVER­POOL TO BE­ING STRONGLY LINKED WITH REAL MADRID, SUSO’S CA­REER TRA­JEC­TORY IS ON THE UP. CIRO DI BRITA PRO­FILES MI­LAN’S LIT­TLE GEM.

Je­sus Joaquin Fer­nan­dez Saenz de la Torre, bet­ter known as Suso, is the 25-year-old diminu­tive, ex­plo­sive winger ply­ing his trade for sleep­ing Ital­ian gi­ants Mi­lan. From be­ing on the fringes at Liver­pool when he ar­rived as a small and slight teenager to be­ing talked up as a trans­fer tar­get for con­sec­u­tive Cham­pi­ons League win­ners Real Madrid, the Spa­niard’s stock has risen hugely over the past 18 months. But what does that mean for his time at San Siro? Is it coming to an end, or has it only just be­gun?

LIVER­POOL

Suso joined the An­field side from boy­hood club Cadiz in 2010 and went straight into the Liver­pool academy, where he con­tin­ued his foot­balling ed­u­ca­tion be­fore sign­ing his first pro­fes­sional con­tract when he turned 17 a few months later.

In 2012 he made his de­but for the Reds in a Europa League tie against Young Boys of Bern and im­pressed man­ager Brendan Rodgers so much that he would go on to make his Pre­mier League de­but three days later at home against Manch­ester United.

Suso would end up fea­tur­ing 20 times in to­tal in all com­pe­ti­tions that sea­son as the Reds fin­ished a dis­ap­point­ing sev­enth in the ta­ble while also go­ing out early in the Cups.

ALME­RIA

In the sum­mer of 2013 Suso joined An­dalu­sian side Alme­ria on a sea­son’s long loan deal from his par­ent club Liver­pool. With the Mersey­side club sign­ing the likes of Daniel Stur­ridge and Philippe Coutinho to bol­ster the for­ward po­si­tions of a goal-shy side, game time would have been at a pre­mium for the young­ster. In a pe­riod when his bur­geon­ing tal­ent was just be­gin­ning to blos­som it was im­por­tant that he found him­self a club where he could be cer­tain of get­ting min­utes on the field.

In a tough but fruit­ful year back in Spain he made 35 ap­pear­ances in to­tal in all com­pe­ti­tions while find­ing the back of the net three times. The high­light came when he scored the win­ner in a 2-1 win away at Es­panyol which started off of a run of three wins in row that pushed the Ro­ji­blan­cos out of the rel­e­ga­tion zone and en­sured their stay in La Liga.

MI­LAN

On his re­turn from loan to Liver­pool, Suso ar­rived at a club that had just nar­rowly missed out on win­ning their first League ti­tle in 25 years and it ap­peared there would still be no place in a line-up that in­clude Coutinho, Stur­ridge and Luis Suarez. One ap­pear­ance in the League Cup against Mid­dles­brough, which saw him score in ex­tra time and force the tie to go to penal­ties, was all he got in a six-month pe­riod.

Once again, the young Spa­niard had to go in search of a new club where he could real­is­ti­cally fight for space on the pitch. He was tipped to join Mi­lan once his con­tract ex­pired in July of 2015 but in­stead he ar­rived early at the San Siro in Jan­uary of 2015, sign­ing a four-year deal with the Rossoneri pay­ing out €1.3m in com­pen­sa­tion to the Pre­mier League side. Two weeks later he made his de­but, coming on for the last 10 min­utes in a Coppa Italia loss to Lazio, and he would have to wait un­til April to get his first taste of Serie A ac­tion.

GENOA

With a new Coach tak­ing the hot seat at the Giuseppe Meazza, Suso found him­self out­side of new boss Sin­isa Mi­ha­jlovic’s plans and fea­tured just twice in the first half of the 2015-16 sea­son. He joined Lig­urian out­fit Genoa in Jan­uary 2016 and un­der

Gian Piero Gasperini’s tute­lage he be­gan to shine and show off his drib­bling tech­nique and abil­ity to find space be­tween the lines, cut in­side and let fly with his left foot, more than once evok­ing the style of Dutch wiz­ard Ar­jen Robben. A stun­ning left footed hat-trick against Frosi­none in April was ac­com­pa­nied by two goals in the 3-0 derby win over ri­vals Sam­p­do­ria in May, mak­ing the winger one of the hot top­ics in Italy that spring.

RE­TURN TO MI­LAN

With Mi­ha­jlovic gone and yet an­other trainer in Vin­cenzo Mon­tella in­stalled as the new Coach of Mi­lan, Suso re­turned to Mi­lanello and set about win­ning him­self a start­ing role in the new look side. Af­ter an im­pres­sive pre-sea­son he soon made the right wing role his own and scored his first goal for Mi­lan in a 4-2 loss to Napoli in the San Paolo. A brace in the Derby della Madon­nina in a 2-2 draw with In­ter was his per­sonal high­light of the 20162017 sea­son, where he fea­tured 37 times in all com­pe­ti­tions while hit­ting the back of the net on seven oc­ca­sions in Serie A.

Suso also made an im­pres­sion at in­ter­na­tional level in 2017. Hav­ing played for Spain at ev­ery age group from Un­der-17, in­clud­ing star­ring in the Euro­pean Un­der-19 Cham­pi­onships in 2012 as Spain won the tro­phy, he made his se­nior bow in a Novem­ber 2017 friendly with Rus­sia. Un­for­tu­nately for Suso, Mon­tella was shown the door the same month and Gen­naro Gat­tuso was in­stalled in his place. Mon­tella had been happy to give the Spa­niard more of a free role and re­lied on him to stay high up the pitch while out of pos­ses­sion. More up­heaval didn’t bode well for the mid­fielder. Suso need not have wor­ried. It’s been un­der Gat­tuso’s men­tor­ship that the boy from Cadiz has fi­nally shown the best of his tech­ni­cal abil­ity. In Gat­tuso’s first year in charge, Suso scored seven goals, claimed 16 as­sists and showed he can ful­fil his de­fen­sive du­ties too. It’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say Suso has be­come one of the first names on Gat­tuso’s team sheet as Mi­lan fight for a Cham­pi­ons League place.

THE FU­TURE

Suso signed a con­tract ex­ten­sion at Mi­lan in Septem­ber 2017, ty­ing him to the club un­til 2020. But the deal con­tains a clause that has fu­elled the re­ports of in­ter­est from Madrid, as a bid of €38m would al­low Suso to speak with any club out­side of Italy, although only in the first two weeks of July. Mi­lan have made noises about re­new­ing the con­tract and re­mov­ing the for­eign clubs clause al­to­gether, but with Madrid in a state of flux af­ter the brief ten­ure of Julen Lopetegui and San­ti­ago So­lari keen to stamp his author­ity on the squad, Los Blan­cos could still test Mi­lan’s re­solve in Jan­uary. Mi­lan would re­ceive a hefty fee for Suso’s ser­vices, but at what cost to their Cham­pi­ons League as­pi­ra­tions?

‘Suso’s stockhas risen hugely over the past 18months’ ABOVE:He made a good early im­pres­sion at Mi­lan but needed a loan at Genoa to prove him­selfLEFT:Suso got few chances at Liver­pool and had to move on to progress in his ca­reer

The Spain in­ter­na­tional could though be tempted by La Liga gi­antsReal Madrid

Reg­u­lar coach­ing changes didn’t help Suso’s development but Gen­naro Gat­tuso has pro­videdsta­bil­ity

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