In the middle of Atlético’s tri-city friendly tour in Colombia, Rojiblanco left-back Filipe Luís took a break from all the action to sit down and have a chat with AS reporter Dani Hidalgo.
In the article, published in the Madrid-based Spanish paper on Monday, The Brazilian evaluated the past season from both a personal standpoint and from the team’s perspective.
The interview can be found in its originally published online format here.
After a transitional year, Filipe Luís has come back in a big way…
It’s not the first time it happens to me. In A Coruña something similar happened. I played a lot of matches in a row. I am more comfortable the more minutes I have piled up, and with more minutes my football improves. I had a difficult start at Atleti. I felt the weight of the [ankle] injury and I didn’t feel well physically. Plus, I arrived at a club where there is enormous pressure. I feel very well-adapted, but it’s harder to play at Atlético than another club in Spain.
Those that have passed through Atlético know how hard it is to play in the Calderón. One must always do well, it doesn’t matter if you play against [Real] Madrid, which is the most important clash, or against a Segunda B side. The pressure is immense. At Atlético you have to give your all or they’ll kill you.
Atlético have had a number of outgoing and incoming players in recent years…
All you have to do is take a look to see how few remain from the 2010 Europa League. They were a team that were champions and they were disassembled, but it was necessary. I came the following season and the atmosphere wasn’t the best one. But this year, the squad was put together well. If the majority of us are kept together, we’ll do more. The team deserve to play in the Champions League.
Were you surprised by Juanfran’s adaptation to right-back?
It happens with a lot of [players], such as Jordi Alba and me at [Deportivo]. Juanfran is hungry and has pushed to find a spot for himself there.
When you arrived at Atleti, you said it was to take a step forward in your career; do you feel you have achieved that?
Yes. Not only in what I am able to fight for with the club, but I have also improved in my way of thinking and watching football. I adapted to becoming professional with regard to endurance and pressure. I have become accustomed to that of being the worst when you have a bad day and being the best when you have a good one. I know that I can still continue to grow on this team. This club have already given me a Europa League title.
You had already gone to Neptuno after the 2010 Super Cup. What was the experience like after Bucharest?
The celebration was different, it was amazing. I believe a champion team is born to become one from the beginning. From the start we already noticed something strange. In La Liga we couldn’t score so many goals, but in Europa League the team steamrolled. Something was noticeable…the squad was determined to become the champions and that made things easier.
After the final, you didn’t celebrate at the hotel when everyone sang “The one who doesn’t jump is a Madridista“. Was that out of respect for the rival?
That day I suffered a huge blow after a challenge with Susaeta and I wasn’t in a good condition to be jumping. But yes, there’s no reason for us to remember anyone else [at that moment], we only have to think about ourselves because no one gave us anything.
It looks like it will be a summer of exits having not qualified for Champions League…
Last year we did not make it into Champions League and a very good squad was assembled. That some footballers left opened the door for others to come that improved the team. It’s complicated to get everyone to stay, but a winning squad always aims for more.
Was the Champions League berth lost when Sporting didn’t take points in Málaga?
We dropped points along the way, some unbelievable ones, and a lot of other teams did as well. Valencia have been the worst third place team in the history of La Liga. We didn’t make it into Champions because of our own mistakes. Next year we have to make it [at all costs]; this club deserve it.
Simeone will be there from the start [of next season]…
Simeone has transmitted a winning spirit to the team. Since he got here, I’ve been a winner. There are no more crap games. That’s over. The coach is a star, a winner. That’s what I most learned from him. This team can do so much more.
Atleti’s opponent in Monaco is set; what are your thoughts on Chelsea?
The winners of the Champions League are always tough. Chelsea have a great team and they know how to approach this. We’ll have a lot of time to study Chelsea and bring home that trophy that is so-important for us.
What are your dreams?
To play in Champions. It’s one of my pending goals.
How would you rate Filipe’s second season at Atleti?