He may have been handed the number 11 shirt as soon as he walked through the doors of the Vicente Calderón, but Raúl Jiménez is finding it much harder to come across some playing time.
The 23-year-old Mexican has only enjoyed 383 minutes of playing time in the league so far this season, out of a possible 1,980 minutes. That’s 20 per cent of the total minutes played by Atleti. He’s had three starts in all competitions, and has made 14 substitute appearances. He’s scored one goal.
Some will argue he hasn’t been given an opportunity. Even more will argue that he hasn’t taken his chances.
However it seems that Jiménez has something that his fellow summer signing Alessio Cerci didn’t – the will to stay and fight for his place.
“In Club America, it was tough to become a starter. I accomplished it. Here I’m fighting and I’m just getting started. I’m fighting for a place, and I hope to earn it,” he told beIN Sports.
“Each time I set foot onto the pitch I feel more comfortable. With each training session and game I feel more confident.”
The gem of Mexican football faces stiff competition for a starting berth. Not only does he have to compete with Antoine Griezmann, who has 12 goals this season, and Mario Mandzukic, who has scored ten, but he also now needs to compete with the arrival of a club legend – Fernando Torres.
“Torres is a player from which I can learn a lot,” Jiménez said of El Niño’s return. “He’s a player who is already familiar with Atlético, and he has had many great moments here.”
“Competition between players is what makes us all better. It’s something that drives you to give your all and never give up. It’s good for the team.”
There was rumours that Raúl Jiménez was unhappy at Atleti, and that he would be pushing for a move as soon as possible, perhaps in the winter transfer window. This is not the case, according to the player.
“The truth is that I didn’t really have any intention of leaving. Yes, I do want to play more, but I know that I need to work hard. I know I need to fight for a place here. Atlético is a great club, and I’m a player who likes challenges.”
It remains to be seen what sort of opportunity falls Raúl Jiménez’ way in the closing three months of the season.
What do you make of Jiménez’ attitude? Would you be happy to give him a start ahead of Griezmann or Mandzukic?