We recently wrote about Atlético manager Quique Sanchez Flores’ thoughts on Juanfran, who came to Atleti from Osasuna in the January transfer window to replace Simao.
The right winger hasn’t seen much action during his short stint with los Colchoneros in 2011 after starting 18 league matches for los Rojillos in the first half of the season. Clearly dejected with how things stand at present, he told the Spanish press that “everyone, not just myself, expected that I would be playing more.”
Ahead of our upcoming match against Juanfran’s former teammates this Sunday, AS asked the 26-year-old if he thinks there’s a chance he may feature in the Rojiblanco starting XI.
“Yes, as always,” responded Juanfran. “Then, there are eight games that remain where I could show that I can be a starter on this team, that’s the most important thing, that the coach feels that I have a lot to offer to this squad and that Atlético fans and the club in general realise that they haven’t made a mistake [by bringing me here].”
Juanfran has only featured in our starting lineup one time in league play and, since being handed that start against Sporting in Gijón back in January, he has progressively been used less and less by Quique. The Atleti boss claims he prefers a more defensive winger to complement the attack-minded Jose Antonio Reyes, relegating our €4.2m winter signing to the bench.
Adjusting from a guaranteed role in Osasuna’s lineups before arriving in January, to having to prove himself all over again to his new club has admittedly been “tough” for the player, but he feels he would have a better shot if he played more regularly.
“I had [continuity] at Osasuna, that’s why I performed well over there,” he said. “I did things well and because of that Atlético signed me. In order to do good things here and for my football skills to be seen I need to play a lot of games.
“All that isn’t easy,” Juanfran admitted. “I would have to earn the trust of the manager and hopefully that happens in these last nine matches.”
The Real Madrid youth product’s natural role is to man the right flank. Unfortunately for him, Reyes is best suited to play on the right wing, forcing Juanfran to compete for a job on the left flank. But homegrown midfielder Koke and Brazil international Elias have apparently edged out Juanfran for that task.
“That another teammate is playing, I have to respect that,” said Juanfran about his current spot in the pecking order. “Up to a certain point I can understand it and, on the other hand, I cannot, because I also think that I can do just fine playing there, but I am very respectful when it comes to these situations.
“If I’m not playing it’s because another one of my teammates is better,” he said. “So, I will have to prove to the coach that I am better than that teammate, or that the teammate playing at that position can play in another position, and I can play there. Everything depends on me, how I perform with the opportunities I am given and what the manager thinks.”
Whether he plays or not, Juanfran’s return to the Reyno de Navarra stadium where he spent the last five years making a name for himself will be an emotional experience.
“The first thing I did when I arrived here was look at the calendar to see what day we would face Osasuna,” he said. “It’s an important match for our team and for me, and I hope we win there. Pamplona continues to be my home. Atlético is now my first home, but my home will always be Pamplona because of how well I was treated there these past five years; because that’s where I became a man in the First Division and I have a lot of friends there.”
Do you think Quique will hand Juanfran a starting job this weekend against his former club?