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“Us”. It’s been three years since he left Juanfran Torres (37 years old) does not erase that word. “Us”. And again. Us and Atleti. He talks about the importance of signing a good right back in the presentation of ‘Vicente del Bosque Football Campus’.

-How important is the right side for Simeone?

-In his game, of quick transitions or reaching outside, he needs important sides both up and down. And, of course, the coach is badly used to it! He had me for so many years already Fili that it is not easy to replace us. Trippier was in that incredible position, but he left us and we haven’t found that replacement. It is preferential. Find a right side of guarantees. Llorente has to play higher up.

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-What does Simeone ask of a right back?

-First that he defended well. The wings for him have a special importance. Whether they are well back or up, with good crosses, arrivals, they transmit strength to the team. Because when you are defending as well as when you attack, you are adding one more man and for him that is very important. And he has had it, with Fili and with me for many years, and he will go on that quest to find other Filipe and Juanfran.

-You were extreme. Was it hard for you to adapt?

-My side as a winger helped me when it came time to attack. But for me, the first thing was to defend well. Finding that balance and top player is very difficult. Even the greats find it difficult to have left or right backs with so much travel.

-The lack of Trippier, could be a reason for the irregularity of Atleti this 21-22…

-Yes. She unsettled a bit. Also on the left, with Lodi, who was not one hundred percent sure of the coach. With Reinildo he improved. But the coach said it at a press conference: regardless of the figures, it has not been good for us to change the system so much. And he has been, not confused, but he has not felt comfortable changing. I know the coach very well: when he has no doubts and has things clear, the team is fine. When he starts that he doesn’t know whether to put this position, change this system, the team feels it. Of course, for me there is no better coach for Atleti.

“Simeone helped us a lot to that generation that was so good. He brought out the best in us. And, later, we gave him that stability”

-You were there when Simeone arrived and changed everything.

-Yes. It helped us a lot to that generation that was so good. He brought out the best in us. And then we gave it that stability. That he is now costing him more. But, of course, he also took a generation… Los Gabi, Godín, Raúl García…

-How would Juanfran have seen himself in this Atlético with three centre-backs?

-Me? In that scheme she would have performed even better.

-Yes?

-Yes. Look, then I adapted very well to the position, to defending, the concepts that the coach and that ‘Mono’ transmitted to me right away and I took them and absorbed them, due to my desire to want to play as well. But here I would have worked ten times more. Because I would have had responsibility but not so much when it came to defending. I was always thinking “clean sheet”. At least the first years it was our hallmark. And that limited you a bit when it came to attacking. But even so, then he drew strength (smile). Also, later, I got along very well with Fili. I was more into going to space, Filipe was more into playing inside, or associating more. We made a very good tandem. I’m going to tell Fili that if he wants to come back from Flamengo and spend a final year at Atleti… (laugh).

“I knew that the Gabi, Godín, Raúl García gave their lives for me on the pitch, as I did for them. It went so well for us for so many years because we were more than just partners inside and outside”

-Of those of that time, of those who started, only Koke remains. What peace of mind does playing with Koke give the rest?

-As a player, everything he gives us… All the field he covers, the facility he has to support the team… He has a red-and-white heart. I feel with him, when he is, the same as I felt with Godín and Gabi. That he had a brother who was going to give up his life in the countryside for me. And I think that among colleagues it is important to feel that. That’s why we did so well for so many years. Because we were more than just partners on the field and off. And if you have, the more Kokes, the more Gabis, the more Godines, you have more chances that things will go well for you because, later, the game has an influence, but Koke’s commitment is vital for him and for the fans.

-This year he has been criticized a lot.

-What’s the matter? Sometimes it happens to the Atlético fan as it happens to any other fan, that at a given moment you want to win, the team is not in a good position. At some point I can get angry with him because he has a bad game or gives me a bad pass or they can score a goal for us. But then I’m going to love him just the same, he’s like my little brother. And I think that the Atlético fan, although at some point he can whistle… Cholo has also been whistled. At some point I have heard a runrún. We all have. But football is like that. Koke is calm. He knows. Last year he trained as a real captain, so there is Koke for a while.