Luis Suarez is looking forward to a reunion with Gaston Ramirez today and has backed his friend and fellow countryman to be “a success at every level”.
Suarez and Ramirez are teammates with Uruguay, but will be on opposing sides this afternoon at Anfield, as Saints visit Liverpool.
Ahead of the match, the Reds’ star player gave the Daily Echo an exclusive insight into his thoughts on Southampton’s club-record signing.
“I first became aware of him when he was playing in Uruguay,” said Suarez, recalling Ramirez’s time with Peñarol, the club he joined as a 15-year-old.
“Everyone knows he has a talent from watching him with the national team, but I think he is a very good player and has what it takes to succeed at every level.”
Uruguay forward Suarez, who played in the same team as Ramirez at the London Olympic Games, joined Liverpool in January 2011, signing from Dutch giants Ajax for £22.8m.
The 25-year-old is well versed in what it takes to succeed both on the international stage and in England’s top flight.
He has netted 34 goals in less than two years for Liverpool, with 13 of those coming this season.
His ten efforts in the Premier League so far this term put him at the top of the division’s scoring charts.
But Suarez admits that making the transition to life in England can be difficult for players from South America.
However, he has already noted some of the eye-catching displays turned in by Ramirez, 21, since his move to St Mary’s from Serie A side Bologna in a £12m deal in August, and believes he will be a big hit on these shores.
“He will do well in the Premier League and he’s starting to prove that,” said Suarez.
“It can be difficult at first for a South American player, or players from different countries, to come to England to play football, but he will be motivated and he has a good mentality so I think he will continue to do well at Southampton.”
Despite their exceptional talents, Suarez and Ramirez never crossed paths during their youth days in Uruguay.
With a four-year age gap between them, Salto-born Suarez has always been somewhat further down the career path than Ramirez, who was born some 150 miles down the road, in Fray Bentos.
But the two men have grown to know each other well, sharing the same sort of family lifestyle off the pitch.
Suarez began his career at Nacional de Montevideo before moving to the Netherlands in 2006, first with Groningen and then Ajax – a move that allowed him to be closer to his European-based girlfriend, Sofia, who he is now married to.
Ramirez himself married his girlfriend, Micaela Duarte, in the summer.
“He is a nice guy and likes to stay at home or enjoy time with his friends and family – a bit like me and (Liverpool defender) Sebastian Coates,” said Suarez.
“If he continues how he is doing at the moment then he can achieve anything he wants.”
Suarez revealed that he offered “a little bit” of advice to Ramirez ahead of his move to the south coast in the summer.
He also insisted that he is always at the other end of the phone if the Saints player needs to speak with him, as are Coates and Brighton’s Uruguayan boss Gus Poyet.
“He asked me some questions and after he signed I spoke to him again to say congratulations,” said Suarez.
“I told him to enjoy his time here, it is so nice playing in the Premier League and if he ever needs to ask me anything he can always call me or Sebastian or even Gus Poyet.”
Suarez is certainly relishing the chance to share the pitch with his compatriot today, although his focus is mainly on securing three points for a Liverpool side that have struggled to ignite their campaign.
“It is nice to play against him,” said Suarez. “To have several Uruguay players playing in the Premier League is a good thing for the people in Uruguay.
“I hope he has a successful season at Southampton, but not against us as I hope Liverpool will win.”