Atlético boss Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone gave a press conference on Tuesday, sharing his thoughts about the controversial La Liga kick-off times, his assessment of the pre-season and his plans regarding up-and-coming teenage midfielder Óliver Torres.
“We’ve still got a few days before we close the squad but I’m happy with what we’ve got,” El Cholo said.
“I’m happy with the pre-season we’ve had. The three who came in: [Cristian] Rodríguez, Cata [Díaz] and Emre joined Raúl [García] to create more competition.
“We know that the match against Levante will be difficult, against a team that works very well and who are well-advanced in their preparation due to their involvement in the Europa League.”
With regard to La Liga time scheduling, Simeone said: “It is difficult but I’m in a position where I can do very little. I can only say that we do not agree.
“We believe it is disrespectful to the fans, to the players and to everyone. Playing a game at 11 at night finishing at almost 1AM will feel strange, very strange.”
The Argentine tactician refused to give any details when asked about the possibility of the sale of a third player following the departures of winger/forward Eduardo Salvio (Benfica) and defender Álvaro Domínguez (Borussia Mönchengladbach).
“I work for a club called Atlético Madrid and I face everything that happens to the club and the club is always more important than anything,” he said.
“Then there are the sporting requirements, of which I am the visible head and we have our commitments and responsibilities. Hopefully the needs of the club can be combined with the sporting needs of the team.”
On Diego’s replacement (candidates including: Arda, Raúl and Óliver), given that the Brazilian playmaker has confirmed he will not be returning for another season, Simeone said:
“We are not looking for a replacement for Diego because Diego is Diego and others have a different name and other features to their game.
“We need to strengthen the team we have today. We will look to take advantage of the features we have within the team. It would be utterly wrong to go looking for another player in the characteristics of another. The most consistent and convenient is to exploit the features of Raúl, Koke and ‘Cebolla’ [Cristian Rodríguez].”
Addressing the persistent questions regarding his plans for 17-year-old Óliver – the Atleti canterano the Rojiblanco faithful are resting their hopes on – and responding to critics charging the coach is being too protective of the youngster, Simeone whipped out a list of about 25 players he handed debuts to in the past who were at around the same age as ‘Oli’ at the time.
“At Racing: Mengui, Sánchez, Schaeffer, Pablo González (who now plays for Palermo) debuted; Max Morales (who now plays for Atalanta); at Estudiantes Pablo Piatti (who plays for Valencia), Maxi Valero, Jonathan Germano, Pablo Caballero; at River, Buonanotte began to have more continuity, Mauro Díaz, Gustavo Bolt … all in all, almost 25,” he said.
“The strategy is clear. The kid is ready to play and he plays very well, but we don’t want to rush him. Then you will be the ones that go on to criticise ‘the coach who drained him’, or when things go wrong it will be ‘because he was rushed’. The kid plays well and knows how much we want from him.
“I have a 17-year-old son and I know what he feels at 17 years old. I made my debut at 17 years old. Óliver is an exquisite player and hopefully we can take it in stride with him so that he can help when he can give us a hand, because I’m sure he’s going to offer us something, whether it’s in November, December, March or April.”
Finally, Simeone, who’s on the verge of completing his first pre-season at the helm of the squad, explained his team’s style of play.
“With Raúl, Diego Costa, Falcao and Adrián we have good finishers,” he said.
“And the penetration that Cebolla gives us on the wing will give us more depth on the left than we had last year. On the right Juanfran…Kader can play there too and Adrián can play well out there as well.
“They are all are ideas, thoughts and preparations. On Sunday at 11 reality begins when the game and the words and ideas are left aside and the facts will be seen. Hopefully we can show all these feelings we have with facts.”