Shortly after putting pen to paper on his two-year contract at Atletico, Emre Belözoglu gave his first interview on Spanish soil to Madrid-based newspaper AS.
The Turkish midfielder spoke to the Spanish daily’s Özgür Sancar, shedding light on his first impressions of his new club, on why he passed up on bigger wages elsewhere to play for Atleti, and on what he has to offer, among other topics.
The interview can be found in its originally published format on AS’ website here.
On his thoughts freshly upon becoming a new Atlético player
I’ve been signed by one of the biggest clubs of Spain and I’m very proud of that. I want to thank everyone involved in the transfer. I’m very excited. It’s a new beginning in Europe for me. After Newcastle I went to Fenerbahçe for four seasons and now I’ve been presented with this great window of opportunities that is Atleti. I made the decision to come thinking it was the best thing for my family and me, and seeing all the interest my signing has caused, now I have no doubts.
On why he passed up on higher wages to play for Atleti
I never placed a lot of importance on the financial aspect of my contracts. In fact, all of the other offers made to me were for a higher salary. But Atleti allowed me to continue playing in Europe and, also, get to know La Liga. After consulting with my family and friends, I didn’t dwell on it any longer.
I’m convinced that I can still play three more seasons at the highest level, and Atlético allow me to compete at one of Europe’s greatest clubs. Last season they won the Europa League by signing important players like Arda. He is like a brother to me and his presence on the team makes the move to Madrid a lot easier for me. We have a fantastic relationship with each other.
On the traditionally very high expectations that come with joining Atleti
[I’m definitely aware of them]. Atlético are the biggest club in Spain after Barça and Real Madrid. Barcelona and Real Madrid compete for everything, but they have much more financial power. To be an Atlético is a great opportunity. What else can I ask for? I am aware of the expectations people have of me and I’m sure I will respond to them positively. I feel very strong. The people at the club have shown a lot of faith in me. Simeone has already written messages to me wishing me luck and telling me he has a lot of faith in me. I hope that with Arda, Sahin, Topal and Altintop we offer a good image of Turkey in La Liga.
On his dinner with Rojiblanco directors on the night of his arrival in Madrid
We didn’t speak much about football. With regard to sporting matters, they only told me that they have a lot of faith that I will perform well. They asked me what I lacked in order to move and integrate myself into the city. They told me that they will always be there to help me with whatever I need. I believe I always gave my all during my time at Galatasaray, Inter, Newcastle, Fenerbahçe, and at Atlético it will be the same. Fenerbahçe is my childhood club and I had always dreamed of playing there. Now, I’ve signed up for two seasons with Atleti and I am once again very happy.
On facing off against ‘El Cholo’ back in the 2001/02 season in Italy when Simeone played for Lazio while Emre played for Inter–the Argentine tactician scored a header that cost the Nerazzurri the Scudetto
Yes, it’s true. I played against Simeone, a sign that I am getting somewhat older (he laughs). This is one of the reasons why Simeone knows me well and I hope that we achieve a lot of success together.
On the competition for a spot in the Colchonero midfield
Nowadays, European giants play 60 matches per season. I am convinced that I will play at least 30 or 35. I believe I will end up playing in the starting XI. If I did not believe I could be a starter, I would not have come to Madrid. Of course, there are players with a lot of talent at Atleti. They are the Europa League champions. They are also a very young squad and that will be something new to me. My main goal for the season is to qualify for the Champions League.
On his opinion of Arda’s first season in La Liga
Arda played a good season but I know he could have done a lot more. I watched almost all his games. He is like a little brother. His presence on the club motivates me a lot as I arrive to the team and to Spain. I am sure my presence will motivate him as well. I will share my experience with him. If he manages to focus solely on football he will become an Atlético and Turkish legend.
On Atleti’s growing Turkish contingent, also considering the club’s rumoured interest in forward Burak Yilmaz
When my agents told me about Atleti’s interest, it made me very happy. I am sure that for the people of Turkey it will be a source of joy and the club’s brand will be stronger in the country. Atlético will become big in Turkey.
Get to know the English-speaking Emre even better by checking out this video posted on Atlético’s official website: “Emre’s first impressions“