FC Groningen general director Hans Nijland has admitted he and his scouting team were lucky to find Luis Suarez in 2006 after initially heading to Uruguay to scout a different player.
Suarez joined Groningen as a 19-year-old, scoring 15 goals in 37 games during his only season with the Dutch club before moving to Amsterdam giants, Ajax.
The Uruguay international has since spent time with Liverpool and Barcelona, becoming one of the most feared strikers in world football with 397 goals at club level to date.
But Nijland has now revealed he and his scouting team were actually in Uruguay to scout another player before stumbling across Suarez.
“I went to Uruguay with Henk [Veldmate] for another player,” Nijland said. “But when you are there, you also try to catch up with some other games. We had some time left and you never know what else you will encounter. I always say this: a searching dog always finds a bone.”
Nijland then spoke of how Suarez impressed him at Nacional in Uruguay, before admitting the player himself insisted Groningen bring him to the Netherlands.
“We were silenced,” he added. “Not even because he played so well, but because of his guts and personality.”
“He passed three or four men and made a great goal. Then we immediately went for Suárez.
“You can expect some nervousness from boys of that age, but he didn’t have that at all. I asked him if he had ever heard of Groningen. He replied: ‘No, I have never even heard of the Netherlands. If you want to become a champion, you have to take me.'”
Since leaving Groningen almost 12 years ago, Suarez has gone on to win 12 major honours in the Netherlands, England and Spain with Ajax, Liverpool and Barcelona, respectively.