When the diminutive Spaniard Suso signed a professional contract with Liverpool on his 17th birthday, he appeared to be a winger blessed with great promise but who may have been slightly out of place.
After all, the Andalusian had not previously left his hometown of Cadiz on Spain’s south coast, aside from meeting up for Spain under-17 international matches.
Part of a wave of Spanish additions to Anfield, fuelled by Rafael Benitez’s stint in charge, it was easy to lose track of the incomings, an approach which often seemed a little scattergun.
Suso was immediately introduced into the first-team squad for friendly matches, including Jamie Carragher’s testimonial at Anfield.
Within two years, the wingers' fine displays for Liverpool’s youth teams earned him a first-team promotion, and he made an immediate impression.
Boss Brendan Rodgers hailed an ‘incredibly promising’ debut for the Spaniard on his debut against Young Boys in the Europa League in September 2012, aged just 18.
Three days later came his first league appearance, replacing Fabio Borini at half-time against Manchester United, and did not concede possession once despite his side being a player short.
A quick, creative and technically gifted left-footed player, Suso can play either on the wing or as an attacking midfielder, with his vision and precision standing out for particular praise. Also adept at set-pieces and the ability to take on an opponent, he naturally excites the crowd.
He had worked himself into the first-team and he immediately provided assists in matches against West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City. Despite his slight frame, Suso did not look out of place against physical opponents and appeared to relish the challenge.
In October, he signed a long-term contract at Anfield, with Rodgers praising his ‘maturity and commitment’.
On the sidelines
The Spaniard’s elevated status put him firmly into the spotlight, but this was not a smooth ride and quickly he ran into trouble.
He was fined by £10,000 by the Football Association for apparent ‘homophobic’ comments made towards teammate Jose Enrique, and he soon fell out of favour under Rodgers.
This was a time when Raheem Sterling was the breakthrough star at Anfield, with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez scoring freely. By the following summer, he was loaned out to La Liga club Almeria.
Suso enjoyed 33 La Liga appearances in a bright campaign and despite being reintroduced into Liverpool’s first-team squad, he made just one appearance. He scored an extra time goal against Middlesbrough in the League Cup but was never to feature for the club again and by January; he was on the move once more.
As the clock ticked into 2015, Suso agreed a four-year contract with Milan as his Liverpool deal was due to expire that summer and the Rossoneri paid an additional €1.3 million compensation fee to secure his loan deal until the end of that campaign.
After eight appearances, he was loaned to Genoa and his career really took off. He became only the second Spaniard, after Inter’s Luis Suarez, to net a hat-trick in Serie A and his sparkling form for the Rossoblu earned him a return to Milan in the summer of 2016.
Since then he has been arguably the standout performer for the Milanese giants. In the 2016-17 campaign, he scored seven league goals and provided nine assists (the highest for the club that season) and last season he bettered both tallies (eight goals, 14 assists) and penned a new deal until 2022.
Diario AS have now backed up an initial report by Cadena Ser that the player could join Europa League winners Atletico Madrid this summer.
A fee of €40 million has been mentioned which is over 30 times the amount that Liverpool received for him. Milan are being pressed hard over Financial Fair Play issues and Suso is viewed as a valuable asset.
For Liverpool, is this the one they let escape? Having won his first cap for Spain earlier this year among growing praise, it appears increasingly likely that this may be the case.
Should Liverpool have kept Suso? Let us know below.