Smitten or bitten? Some adore Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, others cry foul

Story highlights

NEW: Luis Suarez says, "I just collided with his shoulder"

Liverpool star was voted player of the year in England's Premier League

But he's also been suspended multiple times for biting, racist remarks

An Italian player accuses him of biting during a World Cup match

CNN  — 

Luis Suarez has made his mark in football, as one of the most feared strikers in the game.

In more ways than one.

Since joining the Dutch powerhouse club Ajax in 2007, the Uruguayan has established himself as one of the world’s most inventive, tenacious and talented scorers. This past season, Suarez topped all others in England’s Premier League with 31 goals.

But now, it’s a mark of a different kind – near the shoulder of Italian national team defender Giorgio Chiellini – that has everyone talking.

TV cameras showed the two tangling during Tuesday’s Italy-Uruguay World Cup showdown, with Suarez’s head seemingly dipping toward Chiellini. Afterward, the Italian player got up, pulled down his shirt and seemed to passionately indicate he’d been bitten by the Uruguayan striker.

If so, it wouldn’t be the first time. There’s a reason, after all, that some have dubbed Suarez the “Cannibal of Ajax.”

That dates back to 2010, when Suarez was suspended seven games after leaving a scar near the collarbone of Otman Bakkal while in the Netherlands.

Soon after moving to Liverpool, he got fined $63,000 and banned eight matches for racist remarks directed at Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.

And let’s not forget the 10-game ban he got in 2013 after being found guilty of biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

These actions have helped Suarez become one of the most reviled players in the eyes of his opponents and their fans.

“If Suarez is guilty, no ban (is) too long,” tweeted Ian Darke, ESPN’s lead commentator for the World Cup, about Tuesday’s incident. “Totally beyond the pale. Alien to football.”

The 27-year-old himself brushed off the accusations after the game, claiming that “it will be complicated” if there is an investigation into “every collision in a football game.”

“The only thing I know is that those are occurrences that happen on the pitch,” he said. “I just collided with his shoulder. They are just casual incidences that occur.”

FIFA starts disciplinary action against Luis Suarez after biting claims

For all his detractors, Suarez has many supporters. That’s especially true among those who cheer on his teams – including, right now, Liverpool and the Uruguayan national squad – who hail him as “El Pistolero” for consistently firing into the back of the net.

Born in Salto, a city of about 100,000 people near the Argentinian border, Suarez was a teenager when he began playing in his home country’s top domestic league. He was a hit from the get-go, scoring 12 times and 29 appearances to lead his team to a league title in 2006.

Europe came calling soon thereafter, beginning with a spot on the roster of Groningen in the Netherlands. He moved over to Ajax – in the same country and, traditionally, one of the best clubs in the world – in August 2007.

Suarez ended his first season with Ajax with 20 goals. And he only got better.

During the 2009-2010 season, the Uruguayan scored 49 times in all competitions, earning him Dutch player of the year honors.

He made a seamless transition to Liverpool in January 2011.

Controversy followed him to England, and so did his knack for scoring goals.

Specifically, No. 7 netted 17 goals in his first full season with Liverpool, according to his official profile. That was just the start, with 30 scores in 2012-2013 and that figure-plus-one in the most recent complete campaign.

The striker was so good that fellow players in England voted him player of the year.

Thus, even if some hate him, he is still very much respected.

And that’s probably no more true than in Uruguay, where Suarez has come through time and again for the national team.

That includes playing a huge role in the small South American nation’s remarkable fourth-place finish at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Despite concerns that he might be derailed by a knee injury, Suarez has responded in Brazil as well. He scored both Uruguay goals against England, helping assure that team’s hasty departure from the World Cup.

And Suarez also factored into his team’s 1-0 win Tuesday over Italy, even if he didn’t score himself.

With that win, Uruguay is moving on.

The question is whether Suarez will be joining his teammates in the knockout round – or whether he’ll be suspended for his onfield antics, once again.

Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, for one, wondered openly on Twitter how “if Suarez could keep it together for an entire Premier League season, why couldn’t he at the World Cup?”

Roberto Martinez, manager of Premier League club Everton and an ESPN analyst, questioned how such a great player could act out so often – if that’s indeed what he did again Tuesday.

There is no doubt (about) … the talent that he has; he can win games single-handedly,” Martinez said. “But the behavior, I just seriously think that he needs help. You (have to) control yourself in those moments.”

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CNN’s James Masters contributed to this report.