Luis Suarez was welcomed by 30,000 cheering fans during his Gremio unveiling this week, which trumps the number of supporters that came out to greet Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia. The two players were on either side of the El Clasico divide earlier in their careers but the Uruguayan can claim bragging rights over his hero’s welcome in Brazil.
Suarez is set to follow in the footsteps of Ronaldo Nazario and Ronaldinho by turning out for Porto Alegre-based side Gremio, who secured their return to the Brazilian top-flight last season. The 35-year-old had been a free agent after his contract with boyhood club Nacional expired.
Ronaldo was also a free agent after seeing his Manchester United deal terminated by mutual agreement following a fiery media interview, during which he slammed Erik ten Hag and the club. The former Real Madrid ace claimed to have received offers from all over the globe but ended up signing a deal with Saudi club Al-Nassr, making him the highest-paid player in history.
But Suarez can claim the minor victory when it comes to his unveiling as 30,000 people filled the stands at Arena de Gremio – several thousand more than Ronaldo attracted in Riyadh.
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Suarez waved to the elated crowd and applauded the wave of supporters that turned out, posting photos on his Twitter account with the caption: “Thank you guys! Incredible welcome, thank you from the bottom of my heart for how you made me feel today. GO GREMIO!”
The Uruguayan veteran is no stranger to South American football having risen through the ranks in his home country with Nacional, before leaving for Dutch outfit Groningen in 2006. Prolific spells with Ajax, Liverpool, Barca and Atletico Madrid followed before he returned to Nacional last year.
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“I’m so proud to make this big decision in my life,” he said during his unveiling. “In Europe my work is done. I won everything and played for the most important clubs in Europe. This is a new challenge
“I’m a unique player. I beat all the records there. I want to beat a few records here. This contract is unique but I’m a unique player, so for me it’s normal. I really don’t worry about what people say. I am really, really happy to be here. I know the league is very competitive, I saw many games. I’m ready to keep playing football.”