A month after backing out from a scheduled appearance on “El Larguero” at the last minute, Atlético manager Quique Sanchez Flores made his way over to Cadena SER for an interview.
The originally planned mid-February visit to the radio station was while Atleti was in free fall, when the team had slumped to a five-game losing streak.
At the time, rumours were rampant about a possible sacking of the Rojiblanco boss given the squad’s poor performances. When asked why he decided not to show up for the popular Spanish programme, Quique responded that “at that time, anything could’ve been misunderstood.”
Roughly thirty days later, los Colchoneros are on a bit of an upswing ahead of the season’s fourth derby, having gone undefeated in five consecutive league matches. The coach was questioned about his future, specifically, if these are his last days with the club, but Quique assured that he doesn’t “have a single thought about next season.”
“In football, there’s no tomorrow, it doesn’t exist,” he said. “It is impossible to know, and today is almost over. I’m very grateful to Atlético and very fortunate for the experiences I have lived here.”
“Atléticos have a perspective that’s a little different from reality, of great joy and hope; of things difficult to achieve again in the short term,” said Quique, suggesting that Atleti fans have been too demanding with the club in spite of the two European titles won last season.
“We have reached three finals and we’ve rubbed shoulders with the best. I have no reason to keep my head down.”
Nonetheless, the coach recognised that his men have fallen short of their expectations and objectives for this campaign.
“In no way has it been the season we imagined,” he said. “The season’s not over and there are 30 points available still. I want to make it to the Champions League.”
Quique then spoke about striker Diego Forlán’s down year individually, attributing the Uruguayan’s decline to fatigue carried over from a physically demanding 2010.
“We knew things would be difficult from the beginning,” he said. “He finished last season very well, and for the World Cup, he made another tremendous effort. On top of that he played in the Super Cup, so the decline was to be expected and we dealt with it.
“Without him, the team’s performance suffers. He is a sensitive person that is self-critical and he feels he’s responsible for everything that happens. He’s only judged by goals scored, and there’s more to it than just goals.”
Asked if he suspected a dressing room plot not to pass the ball to ‘La Rubia’, Quique said “No, I didn’t notice anything.”
“That doesn’t happen with Forlán,” he said, before also denying Spanish paper AS’ recent claim that members of the squad asked him not to tinker with the line-up so much.
“This Tuesday, AS said the players asked me not to do rotations, and that’s not true. That news was constructed with echoes,” he said.
Sanchez Flores then stood up for his often criticised back-four after his interviewer commented about defensive mistakes against Almería this past Saturday.
“With the numbers at hand, this team defends better than they did last year,” he said. “The percentage is better. We will finish the year with a lot less goals conceded.”
Finally, the manager was questioned about midfielder Juanfran’s situation; why the former Osasuna man had gone from being an instant starter upon his arrival during the winter transfer window, to being banished to the bench with very little minutes now being handed to him.
“His position is taken by Reyes,” he said. “Right now we have balance with Koke and Elias.”
Last month, Atleti president Enrique Cerezo told AS, “We made the effort to bring in two players for Quique, one a Brazilian international and the other a request by the coach,” the latter being Juanfran. General director Miguel Angel Gil Marín claimed that they “negotiated morning, day and night to bring Juanfran in because the manager asked us for him.”
Curiously, Quique denied the directing duo’s claims. “I don’t request players,” he said.
Now that the team is beginning to show signs of improvement and a little more consistency, are you glad that Quique stayed around?