Now that the transfer market is closed until winter and the latest round of international matches is over, all 24 members of Atlético’s squad for the 2011/12 season were able to train together for the first time Thursday.
Following the morning practice session, Atleti’s four captains appointed for the current campaign, Antonio López, Luis Perea, Alvaro Dominguez and Gabi, sat down for a press conference which took place on Atlético C’s match field at the Majadahonda training facilities.
Los Rojiblancos’ top skipper, left-back Antonio López, was the first to speak, assuring fans that they have plenty of reasons to be optimistic this year after a mediocre 2010/11 campaign.
“Our impression is that we have to get the fans excited,” López told Atlético’s official site.
“I believe a very competitive and deep squad, with two players per position, has been put together. The people should get excited about this project with these new players.
“We will put all our efforts into achieving our objectives at the end of the season, which are none other than to finish in the top four. Why should we not be excited after winning the Europa League two years ago, and excited about the Copa del Rey we were on the verge of taking?”
Defender Luis Perea, back with the club after a tour in the United States with the Colombian national team alongside new team-mate Radamel Falcao, had some words of praise for the job Atlético sporting director Jose Luis Caminero did over the summer.
“It’s clear that through their investments Barça and [Real] Madrid are a notch ahead of the rest, but I think that the directors have made a big effort to put together a very competitive team,” Perea said.
“International heavyweights have arrived and that is cause for excitement. The most important thing is that there be a good team and I think we have everything it takes to have a solid campaign.
Atleti youth system product Alvaro Dominguez isn’t too worried about the key departures of Sergio Aguero, David de Gea and Diego Forlan.
“The front office has made an effort to bring in world class attackers, although it’s true that other really good players have left,” he said.
“But it’s clear that those of us that are here are going to give our all so that we won’t have to talk about the past at all, only the present and the future.
“We have a great team and we will show it.”
Last to speak was Gabi, who, despite only having just re-joined the squad after a long spell with Real Zaragoza, was voted as a vice-captain by his Colchonero team-mates.
The 28-year-old lamented that Atleti weren’t able to take the three points at home in the league opener against Osasuna, before talking about the importance of this weekend’s match against Valencia.
“Against Osasuna, the team played a great game despite not being able to get the victory, which was what we all wanted,” he said.
“On Saturday, we have a game that will measure our strength, so that those who have arrived can show their quality and give the fans hope.
“We measure ourselves up against an opponent that is likely fighting against us for one of the top spots and the match in Mestalla is a nice one to learn what our limits are and to show that we are capable of achieving the objectives we have set for ourselves.”