Atlético midfielder Mario Suárez has been a hot topic among Atleti fans of late, ever since his surprise inclusion in the starting XI for the derby.
After garnering widespread praise for his performance against Osasuna this past weekend, the 23-year old Atlético youth product began to attract national attention, and he gave a broad-ranging interview to El Mundo Deportivo this week.
Among the subjects discussed with the Barcelona-based paper were the former Mallorca man’s deeply-rooted Rojiblanco credentials, the tough competition he has faced since returning to Madrid and his estimation of manager Quique Sánchez Flores.
Prior to the derby at the Bernabéu, Mario had only been handed a starting role in Liga on one occasion, in a dreadful loss against Sevilla in early October.
In that match, he appeared alongside Paulo Assuncao, the man he has now apparently ousted of a starting role.
“I wasn’t getting many opportunities up until the derby. I will try to take advantage of the opportunity I now have.
“I want the coach to keep counting on me,” he said.
The former Atlético B player was said to have been just as surprised as his team-mates and fans were about Quique’s decision prior to the big game against Real Madrid.
“I took it well. I work to be a starter. I came up with a good game against Rosenborg in the Europa League and the coach bet on me three days later for the derby. I was grateful,” he said.
“We didn’t get a good result at the Bernabéu…the score wasn’t on our side and we went home frustrated. Against Osasuna, it was a different story.”
After cementing an important role within Gregorio Manzano’s Mallorca side the last two campaigns, Mario likely attracted the interest of several European clubs, but he made it clear where his heart was at the time.
“I had two good seasons in Mallorca, especially the last one when we finished fifth in la Liga.
“I had other options, but I wanted to return to Atleti.
“It has been difficult to get back on to this train, and I will not let it escape me,” he said.
The defensive midfielder talked about the instability at the Vicente Calderón prior to his departure in 2006, and of how things have improved since.
“When I left there was a lot more movement, more transfers, more purchases, more changes. It was difficult to have the stability required in order to yield the achievements the club now claims.
“This Atleti is totally different from the one I left. Everything has changed. We are once again a champion club that has since won two titles.
“We’re a winning team with a winning mentality. We’re going to try to repeat the successes of last year and achieve more,” he said.
Suárez attributes a great deal of his side’s recent successes to the new man in charge, and he showered his manager with praise.
“We have a coach that has been with the team for a year, and he has a clear mindset and transmits his ideas very well.
“He is very demanding with me. From the first day I arrived, he made it clear what he wanted from me.
“I think he is a great manager. He’s going to help me improve,” he said.
Among Quique’s most popular ideas within the Colchonero fan base has been his faith in calling upon cantera talents.
“It contributes to the current stability. It makes me happy to see team-mates all around me like De Gea, Domínguez or Camacho.
“There’s a manager that relies on the youngsters. There’s more tranquility within the club. They will send more players up, you will see,” he said.
Mario never fooled himself into thinking that it would be a walk in the park to earn a spot in his boyhood club’s starting lineup. He was aware from the get-go of the steep challenge ahead of him, but was willing to brave the course.
“You can’t come to Atleti and think that you will have no competition, there are great players, but I’m not discouraged.
“I knew the club was coming back from winning a European title with players that had already gained the trust of the coach.
“It’s true that I thought I would have had more opportunities by now, but the manager decides and I can only try to convince him. I want to win his trust.
“The competition is tremendous on this team. There are five of us for just two spots. I have a lot of faith in my possibilities. I know what I am capable of,” he said.
Quique has justified Mario’s place in the fold by saying that Mario offers more speed in the middle. The player himself talked more specifically about aspects of his game.
“One of my qualities is that I like to help my team-mates with or without the ball. I like to steer the team and send passes to the two up front so that they can stir things up.
“A midfielder’s task is to help out the defenders, cover opponents, and help the team play quickly,” he said.
Mario sounded extremely confident when asked about his side’s future in the domestic campaign.
“We have a lot of faith in our chances. We know that we will qualify for the Champions League. I don’t have a single doubt,” he said.
Despite not being with his current team-mates in May when they defeated Fulham in Hamburg for the Europa League final, Mario said he watched the match “like just another Rojiblanco.”
About the current edition of the UEFA competition he said, “We are the champions, we have to defend our throne.”
The former Spanish youth international then spoke about his team’s goals for this season’s Copa del Rey, and he eliminated any doubts about his allegiance to the red and white colours.
“The objective in the Copa del Rey is to make it to another final. The experience, for those who played it, and for those like me in the stands, was spectacular.
“It was very nice and we want to repeat that. I got goose bumps in the stands at the Camp Nou, I can’t even imagine what it would be like on the pitch.
“I would love to live that experience. I am very Atlético.”