Luis Suarez is the best soccer player in the world.
That's not opinion, it's science.
Or at least it's the science compiled by Bloomberg, which analyzed players in Europe's top five leagues, measuring everything from defensive and attacking responsibilities to the level of competition. And those measurements found the Uruguayan striker is better than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Those measurements also go a long way toward explaining why soccer fans across Uruguay have been praying for Suarez's quick recovery from emergency surgery to repair meniscus in his left knee. Because without him, Uruguay's chances of advancing to the World Cup semifinals for the third time since 1950 fall dramatically.
Suarez, who led the English Premier League with 31 goals for Liverpool, was hurt in the final game of the season when he collided with Newcastle's Paul Dummett. The injury wasn't considered serious until Suarez pulled up lame in Uruguay's World Cup training camp.
Within hours Suarez was being prepped for surgery and Dummett was receiving death threats from Uruguayan fans — presumably the ones who weren't already praying.
Uruguay Coach Oscar Tabarez took a more hopeful approach, though, adding Suarez, 27, to his roster while crossing his fingers and hoping he'll be able to play.
"When I heard, I said, 'No, not now, please,'" Uruguayan defender Diego Godin told reporters. "The truth is that I felt ill, it is something that nobody expected. He is our figurehead, our star."
And a likely spectator for Uruguay's tournament opener with Costa Rica. But the following two games are against traditional powers England and Italy — European teams are like kryptonite to Uruguay's Supermen — and Tabarez hopes to have the world's best player available by then.
The date with England is one players on both sides circled long ago. Although Suarez has made great strides toward reforming a bad-boy past that includes two suspensions for biting opponents, he is not widely loved in England.
However, after taking Liverpool to the brink of its first league title in the Premier League era, he is respected.
"We've got chemistry. We get along on and off the field," said England's Daniel Sturridge, Suarez's Liverpool teammate who finished second in the league scoring race with 21 goals. "It's a beautiful feeling to have a partnership with a world-class striker."
Sturridge is one of five Liverpool players on the England roster –- and Suarez has been texting all of them, promising to be on the field in Sao Paulo for the game that's likely to decide which of the two advances out of group play.
If Suarez can't make it, then Dummett, who plays internationally for Wales, could wind up getting some votes as England's player of the year.
"From a really selfish point of view, it would help England against Uruguay is he wasn't available," England midfielder Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, said of Suarez. "I just hope he's fit when we go back with Liverpool."
Even without Suarez, forwards Diego Forlan, an all-tournament selection in the last World Cup, and Edinson Cavani of Paris Saint-Germain probably give Uruguay enough firepower to beat a young, rebuilding England team whose lone world-class star is Wayne Rooney.
But if England is there for the experience, for Uruguay the World Cup is all business. Which is why Forlan taped a TV commercial recently wearing a T-shirt with a lengthy if somewhat esoteric message.
"We're not the favorites nor will we be a surprise," it read. "We are the team that no one wants to draw."
Especially if it has the world's best player at its disposal.