AAlthough he has to reduce his salary considerably, the love he feels Brief by the club of his life prevents him from placing a single obstacle to its renewal. As emblematic as one of the seven stripes on the shield, it also doesn’t want anything that can’t be won on a green that, in addition to honoring the club’s values, also embodies the club’s origins and evolution. Colismus to illuminate the best Atlantic of history.
To ask. After 599 games, do you see how far you’ve come or where to leave your mark?
To respond. The truth is that I never stopped to think about how many I have. Only when the one who was going to make me the player with the most games in the club’s history approached because everyone warned you. But once I do, I don’t think about whether I’ll reach 600,700, but rather about playing and winning. It’s an incredible milestone, but what I want is for the game to arrive because besides being a spectacular figure, what will value me is what happens there, not what I played.
Q. At this point, are Atlético and its great ‘One Club Man’ obliged to accept your renewal?
A. You already know my idea and philosophy of life. I’ve been here since I was six years old and I want to continue. I know the club’s situation and what happened, whenever there was a need to help I was the first and we’ll see what happens. My desire is to continue, I have always said so, but it also no longer depends on me. I also don’t want to be a burden for the club tomorrow, what I want is to be important, keep playing and enjoying what I’m doing and continue with the sequence of games I’ve been in, where I’m at a good level.
I know the club’s situation and what happened, when it was necessary to help I was the first, my desire is to continue, but it doesn’t depend on me
Q. What is clear is that your career surpasses the dreams of any child, it is like a movie.
A. You always dreamed of being an Atlético player, but you never think that you got to where and how I did. At the beginning, especially in the starting team, I wasn’t in a good dynamic and if I look back and see where I am now, it was a big change, spectacular growth and as the master said, beyond titles or recognition, what matters most It’s being able to help the club grow so much.
Q. That’s Simeone’s extension on the field. And Simeone, what is this for you?
A. Besides my coach, in quotes he is like a father. He always supported me in difficult times, he trusted me from the first day he arrived. Later, on the playing field, I repaid that trust, but for me it is a fundamental piece.
Q. How many times did you thank him for not letting you go to Malaga when you arrived?
A. The truth is that I never literally thanked him, but I thanked him on the playing field. He will certainly be proud to see a boy he bet on back then give him all those years of work, of sacrifice, of dying for him and the team. I think that’s the form of gratitude, besides saying ‘hey, thanks for this, for that’.
“I’m sure El Cholo will be proud because the boy he bet on when he arrived died for him, the years of work are my gratitude.”
Q. Just as Atlético cannot be understood without Simeone, Cholismo cannot be understood without Koke.
A. One day I will have to end my career, but the coach we have is the best Atlético Madrid can have. Having him during these 12 years was fundamental for the club because we had a lot of stability.
Q. And Koke is always your wild card.
A. The master always thinking about situations. He always has a clear idea and adds nuances to it. In my case, all my life I was a midfielder and I started playing on the left wing, then on the right, as a midfielder, I played, in quotes, as a false 9 and now as a defensive pivot. It’s about adapting to situations and what is asked of you. I know him so much that in the end one look is almost enough for us.
Q. Are we facing the most entertaining Atlético ever?
A. Atlético’s games were also a lot of fun. For example, the year we won the League, in 2014, we played spectacular transitional football, people had a lot of fun. In 2016 we also played great football although we didn’t manage to win anything, I think it’s one of the best Atletis that has ever existed. The one in Liga 21 with the pandemic also played great football in the first third of the year. And now since the World Cup we all know how to take on the role that the master wants to give us and that’s why we’re seeing this Atlético.
There has been a lot of fun at Atletis before: in 2014 we played spectacular transitional football, 2016 was one of the best despite not winning anything and in 2021 there was a great first third
Q. Is it more proud to look at the faces of the greats with an iron defense and transitions like in the past or arguing for the ball like today?
A. Difficult…. In the end you have to adapt to the players you have. At that time we had them with other characteristics, now we can have much more possession of the ball. Although they were of the highest level. For example, in the League selection there was Villa, world champion; Diego Costa, on a spectacular level; Arda Turan, Diego Ribas, who was on the bench; Gabi, Tiago, Godn, Juanfran, Filipe Luis… All spectacular. It was an incredible team and now it’s also great, with almost everyone playing with their national teams. It’s difficult to compare, but I like both sides. At that time it was about being a little more withdrawn and making quick transitions and now it’s about trying to have more possession of the ball and have a little more fun with the ball. So, welcome. In the end, what sets us apart is adapting to different styles and being able to enjoy football.
Q. Although you have always been labeled as defensive, you are banishing the destructive midfielder by playing as a 5.
A. I started playing as a midfielder 11 years ago and now I play as a ‘defensive’ pivot, so to speak. I’m having a lot of fun in a position that honestly isn’t mine playing in professional football, I haven’t played there since Juventude. I’m really enjoying getting the ball from behind and making my teammates play, finding Grizzi, Correa or Morata between the lines or also for a long time.
Q. As you have experienced your entire evolution, do you think more and run less now?
A. If I show you the data, I’ll run even more now! This transition was due to maturity, in the past there were more mature players and as time went by I also matured a lot in football and that led me to play there. Now I read the game much faster, before I was more agile when it came to turning or finding that pass between the lines to score the goal. Playing a little further back I have more time to think about the game and position my teammates and the team to attack and defend. Maturity gives you that.
P. Simeone visualizes this same journey with Barrios.
A. I hope it’s cool. The most important thing for the club would be to have an identity. Riquelme or Barrios, who are currently performing at a high level, are Atlético Madrid’s present and should be the future. Pablo is at a very high level, he has to mature like all of us. Just like Riquelme, who is now also in the national team and is incredible.
Q. You are the great forgotten one, do you consider the team lost?
A. No, obviously I always like to go and want to go. Who wouldn’t want to participate? What happens is that whoever is there now is at a very high level, they won the Nations League and qualified for the European Championship. I’m going to continue at my club doing what I’m doing and waiting for my moment. And if that doesn’t happen, keep supporting, because I’m Spanish and I want Spain to always win.
Who doesn’t want to go to the national team? Keep waiting for my moment at my club and if it doesn’t arrive, keep supporting me, I want you to always win
Q. Atlético haven’t scored so many goals since 1957. Does this year smell like a title?
A. Just as last season it seemed like we were dead, that we were a disaster, that we weren’t going to reach the Champions League and that everything was going to fall apart, it’s too early to say that we’re going to win a title. It’s November, although that’s what we’re all looking for: competing and wanting to be at the end of the season fighting for everything. So we know what it’s like, you need to have a little luck and that ambition to be able to win. But we are playing good football, with many attacking players: Riquelme and Lino are strikers, Molina is almost a striker even though he is a winger, Grizzi sometimes even plays inside, we have Correa and Morata… That’s why we are playing some goals.
Q. To win something, do Madrid and Barcelona have to fail or, as Cerezo said, Atlético don’t fail?
A. It could be a little of both. Madrid and Barcelona are great teams worldwide and are always ahead, winning practically every game. We have to be perfect to win the title. It was like that in the two years we won the League. In 2014, Barcelona were there until the last game we played against them and Madrid were there. Also the year we won in ’21, Real Madrid were with us. But as the president says, it is often not a question of others, but of looking at ourselves and doing things well. If we do well, we can fight for anything.
Q. Do you have an explanation for the spectacular post-World Cup change? Was it just football or did he have to compose himself in the locker room?
A. The coach sent a message about how to play, suggested something else, wanting to have more possession of the ball and change several details and the team accepted it well. He died with this idea, that we did the same thing before but things didn’t work out. The team started to grow, gain confidence, winning games little by little and we reached the point we are at today. We also talk and talk about our things, but other than that it was because the results came. Because I remember that at the beginning of the season maybe we weren’t playing well, we were winning a game and at the end they tied or scored a goal and we lost… That takes away confidence. For example, this year the start of the game against Cádiz was not good and we came back. Also in other home games we didn’t start well, we conceded goals and the team ended up turning the result around. In the end, it’s about having confidence in what you do and that the results will come.
After the World Cup, the master sent a message about how to play and the team went to death with this idea, in the end it’s about having confidence in what you do
Q. It seems that no matter how much Atlético has evolved in its style, with so many twists and turns, that pica gene always emerges.
A. As I always said, in the end we are sufferers and even though we win for many, in the end we always suffer. We carry this in our DNA. There are times when we need to go back and move forward and others when we may be winning 1-0 or 2-1 and we need to know how to suffer defending. Or this year, for example, we are often playing good games and winning by more than one goal.
Q. And what else does Griezmann need to do to be considered for the Ballon d’Or?
A. I believe that Griezmann is not superior because he plays for Atleti. He has all the marketing, with France he played in two World Cup finals, won one and was close to the other; he almost won a European Championship; Last year he was the best in the League and he’s the best this year… I’m not the one voting but I know it’s true that if he played for another team he would have that recognition.
Griezmann is not in a higher position for the Ballon d’Or because he plays for Atlético, if he played for another team he would have more recognition
Q. Speaking of titles, Koke only misses the Champions League, after caressing him twice, what feelings does that give you?
A. No, for me it’s not an obsession. The truth is that I make the most of each competition and I really like the Champions League. We won’t be any closer than winning because we lost one in the 93rd minute and another on penalties, you can’t be any closer than winning. I try to enjoy, fight, live day to day and, above all, the game that I have to win so that I can, as we did before these two finals, enjoy the journey. What this implies is fighting every game in the group stage, then the round of 16, quarter-finals and so on, until you try to reach the final and be able to win.