World Cup outcast Luis Suárez was yesterday treated to a hero's welcome as he arrived back in Uruguay and gained the unexpected support of the rival he bit, Italy's Giorgio Chiellini, although a top Uefa official says the Liverpool striker needs treatment.
Suárez was sent home from Brazil in disgrace after Fifa imposed a four-month ban on him for biting Chiellini during Uruguay's 1-0 defeat of Italy on Tuesday. Despite attempts to keep his return under wraps there were 1,000 fans waving banners of support outside the terminal before he arrived. He was seen wearing a hooded top as he sped off to his mother's home but refused to comment.
Chiellini had been outraged by Suarez's actions during and immediately after Tuesday's match but yesterday he surprisingly criticised Fifa's decision to hand out such an unprecedented ban, which Uruguay have promised to contest.
On his official website, Juventus defender Chiellini wrote: "Now inside me there's no feelings of joy, revenge or anger against Suárez for an incident that happened on the pitch and that's done. There only remains the anger and the disappointment about the match. My only thought is for Luis and his family, because they will face a very difficult period. I have always considered unequivocal the disciplinary interventions by the competent bodies, but at the same time I believe that the proposed formula is excessive. I sincerely hope that he will be allowed, at least, to stay close to his team-mates during the games because such a ban is really alienating for a player.
However, Jérôme Valcke, the Fifa general secretary, said the length of the ban reflected Suárez's previous misdemeanours, and urged him to seek treatment.