Raúl García may have left Atlético Madrid last summer, but clearly hasn’t lost any of the affection he has for the club where he spent 8 years and became a cult hero amongst the rojiblanco faithful.
The Basque midfielder went through it all at the Vicente Calderón, epitomising the spirit embodied by the club with a mixture of hard work, desire and a never-say-die attitude.
Once upon a time he was whistled and heckled whenever he took to the pitch, but RG8 left the club as a legend last summer having played a huge part in our recent successes.
Although now at Athletic Bilbao, Raúl García will be at the San Siro as a fan on Saturday night, hoping to cheer his former teammates to the trophy he came so close to lifting back in 2014.
Rulo opened up to Atleti fans with an emotional letter on Eurosport’s website on Wednesday:
Raúl García’s open letter
“Atlético have been and are something very important in my life. I spent many years there and learned a lot of things both as a footballer and a person. It was probably one of the most important moments of my life. Now I’m at Athletic in a new, important stage and one that I feel proud of.
In the Champions League final I will be like any other Atlético. My body was telling me to go, live it as closely as possible, and so I will be going to Milan with my wife and supporting from the crowd. I couldn’t miss this for anything in the world. I will try to give everything I can from my seat. I will be nervous, but I am very convinced that if things go well and with the experience the team has, they can win and everybody can enjoy.
In a team where you give everything you have, it’s normal that things do go well. This is the only secret of this squad. They will play a final and the title is close. Playing two Champions League finals in three years, something almost impossible, doesn’t happen without proving that you are a team that does things well.
The final in Lisbon made them stronger. These little battles are what makes one grow. The group has learned from that situation and as Buffon said, I believe in revenge in sport, more so after what happened that day.
My exit from Atlético was one of the hardest moments of my life. I have affection for so many people; teammates, staff, fans… which made the day of my farewell so difficult. I remember the gesture from my teammates holding up 8 fingers to dedicate their goals to me against Sevilla and I felt a lot of emotion. I had mixed feelings as on one hand I was very sorry to leave, but on the other I was very satisfied to get the chance to join Athletic where I am being treated phenomenally.
It is impossible to single out just one of my ex-teammates, but many memories with them come to mind. I shared a room with Gabi and spent many hours speaking with him about many things, also as captains. What can I say about Koke, who I had with me since he was a kid (being almost a kid myself still). From the start I sensed that he would be an important player, he had the personality and quality to triumph, and luckily I wasn’t mistaken. Now he is a great captain. I also remember Juanfran, Godín, Filipe Luís, Tiago… with whom I shared many things. I also can’t forget Fernando [Torres], somebody exceptional, or younger players such as Correa, who have a desire to learn that reminded me of my early years.
Simeone is a very intelligent person, capable of dividing both personal and footballing matters and able to help on both counts. For me he was somebody very important, as well as the coaching staff.
I believe in his ‘game-by-game’ mantra, it was one of the values instilled in me by my parents from a young age. I come from a hard-working family and since childhood I was convinced that with work, effort and belief, you can achieve what you want. It is a phrase that has that has strenthened my suspicion from when I was young.
Fans, players, coaching staff and directors, you are all in my heart, and I hope that we can celebrate the title together.
A hug to all,
What is your fondest Raúl García memory in red and white? How close are you to tears right now?