In the days when ticket sales were the primary source of club revenue, the big two from Uruguay -- Nacional and Peñarol -- could compete with anyone in the world. A crowd of 70,000 in Montevideo was not so different from a crowd of 70,000 in Madrid.
With the growing importance of TV, though, all that changed. The prospects of Uruguayan clubs were obviously limited by the size of the market -- the country's population is around 3.5 million. The European giants, meanwhile, conquered the world, drawing in an audience from across the planet, turning that interest into revenue and subsequently signing the best players on earth -- including those from Uruguay, such as Luis Suarez.
And after 16 years in Europe -- split between the Netherlands, England and Spain -- Suarez is now heading home, back to the place where it all started, rejoining Nacional in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo.
For Uruguayan football, this is huge. Local heroes such as Diego Forlan and Alvaro Recoba have done similar, but clearly with the idea of rounding off a career that was nearing its end. Suarez may be 35, but he is still the centre-forward of the national team, still an important player on the global stage, Uruguay's all-time top scorer who is set to lead the attack at November's World Cup in Qatar.
And it is the timing of the World Cup that has almost certainly played a big part in his decision to come home. Nacional are very unlikely to be his final destination. There is plenty more to come. But returning home seemed like the best option for the short term; it is entirely likely that he will only be wearing the white shirt of Nacional until early November. This could be a fleeting pleasure for the club's fans, but it is one that they have done much to bring about.
Major League Soccer looms large in his mind, but the timing is not good. That might be a better idea for 2023, when he could join a club ahead of a full preseason.
He waited for offers from Europe, with two objectives: He wanted a club with competitive aspirations, and he was reluctant to cause too much disruption to his family. This second factor appears to have ruled out a move to Turkey, with a new language for his children to learn. Could he have landed at another big club in Spain? Sevilla, perhaps? Might Steven Gerrard have wanted to revive the old pals act at Aston Villa?
There were numerous big opportunities with South American clubs, beginning with Argentine giants River Plate. Coach Marcelo Gallardo was very keen to make it happen, but it appears that Suarez imposed two conditions: one, that he was not seduced by an offer from Europe, and two, that River made it through to the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores. The Buenos Aires outfit were favourites to overcome fellow Argentines Velez Sarsfield, but they fell 1-0 on aggregate and Suarez, ever the competitor, lost interest.
He also could have chosen from any number of Brazilian clubs. They would have paid him more than what was on offer in Argentina or Uruguay, but money was not the priority. He wants to be at his best for Qatar. At his age, he would clearly suffer from the calendar of Brazilian football, with the sheer amount of games and travel time, and so he made it public that he was not considering Brazil.
And so a little crack appeared, a small opening for a dream. Nacional last fielded him as a teenager, perhaps they could now bring him back as a veteran. The club launched a campaign of mass seduction: fans wore Suarez masks, bands played songs in his honour, and for Suarez -- by now anxiously watching the clock tick away -- the idea began to become enticing.
There would be no new language. His children could strengthen their ties with the land of his birth. He would be loved and, as well as keeping himself in rhythm, there would be a shot at glory.
Nacional are always in contention for domestic honours, but there is also the Copa Sudamericana. Nacional are through to the quarterfinals, home and away to Atletico Goianiense of Brazil in the next two Tuesdays. The last time the club won an international title, Suarez was two years old. Even if his spell at home proves to be short, it will be unforgettable if he can carry them all the way to the trophy.