Beautiful mario He is one of the trusted men of the Cholo, as a central left or as a side. In this third season with the Athletics, the defender takes stock in ACE and launches challenges for the future, with the Champions like a big dream and the Selection as another personal challenge.
—It is his third season at Atlético and it has changed his life: league champion, starter in a big team …
–It’s what we come for. When I made the jump to Atlético it was for that. To see my ceiling as a player, as a gesture of ambition, wanting to join a team that has established itself among the best in Europe, with the same coach … A group of people with a very specific philosophy, that of working every day and every game despite the titles and the good dynamics. The project excited me and above all to be able to achieve a title, which is the most important thing, and especially the League, a regular championship.
–Very satisfied, very happy. I would not change the decision to come. When the Atlético opportunity came up, I left everything else behind. I knew I was at home, with my friends, with my family, in a club where I had great teammates from the National Team and I knew players from other times. It is what characterizes the club, that feeling of unity, ambition, familiarity and above all of having no roof.
—And now you know better what Atlético is. What is it?
–It is this. I have been fortunate to experience it very closely. Most of my environment is from Atlético. I have grown up watching these games, days at the Calderón … I already knew it, because of everything they perceive, because of the feeling of belonging to a team, to their players, regardless of how things go … I don’t know, it’s something special, I know I tell the people with whom I share anecdotes, that in adverse situations there is that feeling of drive, of belonging to what they want, which is Atlético, and regardless of the player they are, they always give everything for the team, as we would do for them.
“I remember the comeback to Osasuna, the involvement, the people who enter the game and solve it, the family that we are …”
—You are league champion. It feels?
—You want to work harder every day, to achieve great things and consolidate them in a club like Atlético, which is special for the good, the bad, to live everything to the limit. That is what pushes you to continue claiming yourself despite winning a League. It is an aperitif. All of us who make up Atlético are more hungry to continue growing. We know we have potential, we have done it and, with the philosophy and mentality of working every day to improve, the team has no roof. The League has awakened something within us that makes us go for more.
—He looks very ambitious …
–When you do a sports career, the only thing that marks you, despite being unfair, are the titles. They mark your trajectory. When all this happens, there is the memory of the great days, of the titles … If you are able to reach the elite, consolidate yourself in a team and win titles, there is nothing like that. It is a reward for the effort of the day to day, visible and not visible. Not only the hours we spend here, but fighting against your head in adverse situations, good care, good nutrition, not being influenced by social networks … When those moments come you realize how beautiful it is and the importance you give to these titles.
—What moment of last season are you staying with?
–I have many. When I sit down, someone always comes to mind. The comeback Before Osasuna at home, it seemed that everything was there and in a moment it disappeared. Despite being in bad situations, when people doubt you or think you are not capable, the team overcomes. It is the identity. More than the memory is the feeling of saying: everything is beautiful when everything goes with the current, but when you have to fight in adverse situations at such decisive moments of the season that you have been fighting for many months and you can escape in minutes … It is one of the memories that remain with me for the people who enter the game and resolve, for the implication we have, for the union, for the family that we are …
“The League is crazy …
–There is more and more equality and it will surely continue to happen. Football evolves, there are more and more facilities for everyone, when it comes to being professionals and turning the player into an elite. Every day everything becomes more similar, all the teams have very great footballers, who are talented, who take care of their diet, who are capable of going to the National Team at any time. He speaks very well of the LaLiga level and it is what everyone wants. This is the nice thing, if it were a matter of two or three teams it would be monotonous or boring. Any team can win or lose …
—You are almost the same plus Griezmann. What about French?
–A player that everyone wants on their team. It has proven it many times over many years and it will continue to prove it. He is a footballer that you like to be around. We knew that he was going to help us a lot and he is going to do it for sure.
– Speaking of you, we no longer know if you are central, lateral, lane …
–These are things that I talk to the coach and we are here to help. There are times I say ‘I want to play here’. I would like to be a forward and score forty goals a year. But it’s about looking at where the team needs me. It’s good, as before with Saúl, now with Llorente; Koke, who can adapt to any situation, whatever the coach asks for. We are here to help. It is true that there are positions in which I feel more comfortable, for example, as a pure center-back, but if I have to play in a line of three, or in a line of four as a winger, as if I have to go ahead with Koke … Wherever he asks me the mister.
– His kicking the ball is striking. It is not usual for a defender to have this technique.
–It comes from my love of soccer. Since I was little, there have been players who have caught my attention because of the way they play, interpret football and, above all, make a pass something beautiful, something that the public says is different. There are differences from when you see a ball that is well hit to when you don’t. And since I started I liked taking care of the movement, I had a lot of strength and good technique and I took advantage of a lot to shoot free kicks when we were little. And so little by little. And also training him a lot.
– Do you have a thorn in the Champions League for the last two eliminations (Leipzig and Chelsea)?
–It is a special competition that everyone wants to conquer. You see the team line-up and being the champion is very complicated. There are leading footballers who can be decisive in many situations. It’s about winning matches in the first phase, in a difficult group like ours and then watching… But it’s true that we’re hungry and really wanting to win a competition like this.
“Next up is Liverpool.”
–It is a special game, very motivating, we already played against them in 2020 … We know the importance of the clash, the kind of team it is and the players it has. Every year they compete to win their League, in Europe… It will be very complicated.
“I have always liked to take care of the movement of the ball; as a child I even threw fouls”
—The other day, against Barça, the Wanda Metropolitano was close to full and recalled the atmosphere before the pandemic. I imagine you would be excited …
–When you get together in a stadium like that, with a crowd like that, it’s always exciting. Seeing the people back again… We are guided by the people, by the drive, by all that help they provide us from the stands and to see it like that is very nice.
—To finish, I ask you about the Selection. He is a league champion, a starter at Atlético… Does it motivate you to come back?
–It is not demotivating, of course. I was lucky enough to go to the National Team with Espanyol, then I went once with Atlético and the coach is the one who makes the decisions. There is a great level to choose from, it is a good thing. The main thing is our club, where we spend more time, where we train, improve and where we aspire to important things. If later the coach thinks we can help, we are delighted. I love the National Team, I love my country, it is a special feeling, it is something fantastic, but hey, the coach has many players to choose from and we are here for when we are needed.