Our great friend Dani Hidalgo, a reporter for Spanish newspaper Diario AS, interviewed Atlético midfielder Raúl García, asking the Pamplona-born man a series of questions regarding his return stint in red and white following a highly successful year on loan at his boyhood club Osasuna.
The 26-year-old’s second coming, which has seen him being played in a more advanced position than in his prior tour, has gotten off on the right foot and he is quickly winning over the Rojiblanco faithful–most of which had bitterly derided him throughout his previous spell at the Vicente Calderón.
Raúl already has three goals and one assist to his name in the early goings of the present campaign.
The interview below is excerpted from Dani’s report published on Monday in AS which can be found here.
What were your expectations coming into the pre-season?
I had gone to Pamplona for personal reasons, to recover the confidence I had lost at Atleti for not having gotten the playing time I wanted. I arrived at [the] Los Ángeles de San Rafael [training facilities] with the intention of doing things well and convincing the coach. I only knew him through what my team-mates had told me about him.
What did Simeone tell you?
He told me he had expectations of me. That I was a player that he counted on. That he knew me well because he had seen some of my games with Osasuna and he felt that I could offer something for the team.
How did your loan spell at Osasuna help you?
It was a nice year because everything turned out well from a personal standpoint as well as for the group. The team did well all year and achieved the objective set.
How are you experiencing this new Rojiblanco phase?
Everything is positive, and not only at a personal level. I’m happy even though I haven’t been starting, but I have gotten minutes. With regard to goals, I try to take advantage of the chances and I think I’ve been able to do so.
What are your objectives. Do you have a goal target?
I try to contribute to help the team stay at the top. I’m not a statistics person. That’s something personal. Each one of us knows what to demand of oneself and to set objectives in order to improve.
Finally, after five seasons as a Rojiblanco, you are deployed as a playmaker…
It’s the position I always played until I arrived at Atleti. I feel much more comfortable there because I can go up top and have goalscoring opportunities. I limit myself to doing what the coach asks of me and if it’s to play more withdrawn, I try to do it well.
Does credit go to Simeone?
I have to thank [Osasuna coach José Luis Mendilibar]. He knew how to analyse me and placed me in that position. He believed in me, gave me a lot of confidence and in the end I had a great year because of that.
In the Málaga game you were applauded and are winning over the fans little-by-little…
I’ve never spoken about the supporters, not in the good times nor in the bad ones. I respect them and if they want to criticise, let them criticise, if they want to praise, let them praise. But I limit myself to doing my job the best way possible.
You are the only ‘survivor’ of the final in Hamburg. What differences do you see between that Atleti and Cholo’s Atleti?
This is a much more complete team. Right now, regardless of who plays, things turn out well. The [season] is very long and you can’t always play with the same 11. Now, there is more unity between the people, the club, the squad; I’ve never had this feeling. We truly are a complete team.
Do you prefer that as opposed to being a fixed starter?
A footballer is selfish because he always wants to play. The manager is the one who knows what is best for each game. The work of the coaching staff is to know who can create more damage to the opposing team. What is being seen is that the coach’s decisions have been spot on.
Who is most responsible for the team’s successes?
Credit must be given to the coaching staff. They are the ones that push us every day and create the intensity that does not allow us to relax. Logically, the players are also responsible: knowing how to understand what the coach wants and playing each clash as if it were the last one.
Falcao is in the spotlight. What’s your opinion on your team-mate?
What I would highlight about Falcao is that he has a lot of hunger. Each day you can see that he wants to train and improve himself. He wants to become one of the best in the world and he is achieving that.
The team has not tasted defeat in six months…
We’re all calm: the club, the fans and the Press. There is unity and that is favourable.
Is this euphoria dangerous? There is already talk about Atleti being La Liga’s alternative…
Very, but we, the players, are the ones that have to hit the brakes and not allow ourselves to be swept away. We have to continue working the same way. When things go well, much more is expected of us. I think the moment must be enjoyed. Right now, the team is up top in La Liga and in [Europa League], but we have to take care of that, it’s not a matter of one day. If we aren’t careful, everything can change in two or three weeks.
Is this the coaching staff that places the most emphasis on going game-by-game?
Possibly, but it’s something that many coaches look for.