JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Luis Suarez is ready to put his biting days behind him.
The Barcelona striker was officially presented to fans on Tuesday at an event delayed for more than five weeks because of his suspension for biting an opponent at the World Cup.
Suarez said he was ready to “erase” his history of bad behavior and start fresh with the Catalan club.
“I say to all the fans, don’t worry, because I won’t do that anymore,” the former Liverpool striker said.
Suarez sunk his teeth into the shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup in June, earning him a four-month ban and further damaging his already tarnished reputation. The Court of Arbitration for Sport lessened his penalty last week, allowing him to start practice with Barcelona on Friday and play the final minutes of a friendly on Monday.
The Uruguay forward won’t play a competitive match until October.
“The suspension is what it is, and I have to accept it,” Suarez said. “After what happened I didn’t want to do anything. I was depressed. But while I was with my wife and children I had to accept reality. I asked for forgiveness as I had to do, and now I have to think about the present.”
Suarez refused to go into details about what he considered was at the root of his violent behavior. He called it a “private” issue that he was treating with the “appropriate professionals.”
But the volatile former Ajax forward did say that after his latest bite he was worried about his career.
“Of course I was worried, but not only about the transfer (to Barcelona), but also about myself, for what I had done. I try to erase it,” he said. “The lesson I take from it is personal. I try to forget it.”
At 27, Suarez has accumulated three multi-match suspensions for sinking his teeth into an opponent. He has also been suspended for making racist remarks.
Unfazed by Suarez’s latest act of aggression and focused on rebuilding its team after a disappointing season, Barcelona spent big to acquire the Premier League’s leading scorer from last season. Suarez will now form one of the most potent attacks in the world with Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Barcelona vice president Jordi Mestre said Suarez cost the club 81 million euros ($108 million). Media reports had said the deal was for about 97 million euros ($129 million). Mestre added that Suarez’s buyout clause has been set at 200 million euros ($267 million).
Suarez won’t complete his ban from playing competitive matches for Barcelona until Oct. 25. That will rule him out of the first eight Spanish league matches and three of Barcelona’s six Champions League group matches.
His first game could be a big one. On either Oct. 25 or 26, Barcelona will play Real Madrid in the first “clasico” of the season.
Suarez also remains banned for Uruguay’s next eight competitive matches and will miss next year’s Copa America and some World Cup qualifying matches.
“It hurts not playing for Barcelona but it hurts even more not playing for my country,” Suarez said. “I love my country. The fact that I will miss the next Copa America hurts very much. But I have to try and forget it.”