The other has played 21 games for Manchester United, scored 16 goals and has one assist. Their records are virtually identical.
Their background, their personalities, their style and the situation in which they are being asked to ply their trade could hardly be more different.
Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie occupy the top two spots in the Premier League goalscoring charts, and are close to the peak of their powers. But when it comes down to it, which of the two would you choose for your team?
In terms of their backgrounds, the Uruguayan Suarez came to England via Holland and an education at Gronigen and Ajax. Controversy followed him around in Holland – the low point of his years at Ajax was a ban served for biting an opponent – and also at international level, with Suarez the high-profile villain when Uruguay denied Ghana a place in the World Cup semi-finals in 2010. He joined Liverpool, already established on the world stage, for a fee of £22 million.
On the other hand van Persie’s formative years, also in Dutch football, were less eventful, save the occasional disagreement with his Feyenoord manager. He moved to Arsenal as a promising young player but largely below the radar when he joined for £2.75m in 2004. It is only since moving to England that van Persie’s has also experienced headlines for the wrong reasons – most significantly the time spent in a Dutch prison in 2005 whilst being held on a rape charge, and for the controversy surrounding the manner in which he engineered his move from Arsenal to title rivals Manchester United.
It’s fair to say that whilst Suarez’s background gets a lot of attention, RVP is no angel, and there’s not a lot to choose between the two players in terms of the ‘baggage’ they bring with them.
In personality terms, again there are real differences between the two. Suarez is known off the pitch to be a sociable but ultimately quiet family man, who is dedicated to his wife and daughter. On the pitch, he was recently described by Reds captain Steven Gerrard as ‘a warrior’ for the way in which he has relentlessly led the Liverpool line and delivered the goods for his team.
Van Persie, in spite of the controversy in his private life, is a more measured and clinical individual on the pitch, and plays more to the situation that his teammates have presented around him. Given the respective league form of their teams this season, both players’ personalities have probably suited the situation perfectly.
The personalities of the two individuals reflect in their style of play on the pitch. Suarez still plays with the spirit of a child on the streets of Montevideo in Uruguay, exceptional with the ball at his feet in tight spaces and always looking to hustle and bustle his way past defenders – a nutmeg here, a roll of the ball there, his style puts you in mind of playing with an ancient old football with your mates on the school yard, except he was the player you’d never get the ball from.
His style is unique in the Premier League and arguably in all of Europe – look at his run through the Manchester United defence to set up Dirk Kuyt last season, or his stunning touch and finish against Newcastle at Anfield in November last year. There is no one that plays the game like Suarez, and sometimes it takes your breath away.
Van Persie’s style is technically virtually flawless, and bears the hallmark of someone whose game truly developed and flourished under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. He strikes the ball as cleanly as anyone in the league, scoring his fair share of goals from set pieces and also using textbook technique in claiming memorable strikes such as his first time volley at Charlton in September 2006, or – sorry to remind you all of this – another snap volley to steal the points at Anfield in March 2012. His touch, passing and striking of the ball all demonstrate someone who is another Dutchman off the production line of technically superb footballers.
You can make your own choice, but in terms of their style of play, there have been more players like van Persie in our league than there have Suarez. For me, this one goes to Luis.
Looking at how their respective styles and personalities have influenced their teams’ fortunes this season, here we find the biggest difference between the two. It’s far too simplistic to give this one to Suarez simply because he has been playing in an obviously weaker team – you could just as easily argue that being in the weaker side can often mean that he’s more likely to get goals simply because no-one else is contributing, whereas van Persie has played in a side full of goals, so it doesn’t follow that it’s easier to get that sort of record in the stronger of the two teams. It’s about more than that.
What’s most important is the fact that Suarez has, since the disastrous August transfer window left Brendan Rodgers with just one recognised striker for the best part of three months, stepped up to lead his team, even to impose his personality on the team, in a way that no Liverpool player has done since Steven Gerrard.
His hounding and pressing of defenders, his weight of goals and his sheer hard work in every area of the pitch – these are the things we’ve seen this season, and these are the points that prompted Gerrard’s description of him as a ‘warrior’. He has led from the front and scored scrappy goals, memorable goals and controversial goals – he has also been denied perfectly good goals – without him, Liverpool’s league position is unthinkable.
Of course, van Persie’s contribution to his team has been immense. He has made the transition from Arsenal to Manchester United a seamless one, scored goals domestically and in Europe and has produced the goods on a number of occasions when his team needed it most.
Manchester United have come from behind to win games in an almost record number of games this year, and van Persie’s goals have been a huge part of that. And, if you believe his manager, he’s even done well to still be alive following the brutal incident where someone kicked a football at his head. Seriously though, even the most hardened Liverpool fan has to give credit where it’s due for van Persie’s impressive goal return, irrespective of the strength of the team around him.
Any football manager in world football would love to be faced with the choice between having Robin van Persie or Luis Suarez in their team. Both are amazing talents, and are having incredible seasons for their respective clubs.
When it comes down to it though, for me, the manner in which Suarez has stepped up to the plate in recent months and single-handedly driven a weaker team forward, together with his more instinctive, natural style of play, with all its excitement and flair, means that El Pistolero just edges out the supremely talented Dutchman.
With a bit of luck, he might just edge him out on Sunday, too.
Find me on twitter @rossco1981