After a tough start to life in Spain, Atletico Madrid superstar Joao Felix has started to come into his own in the past year or so.
Signed for more than €100 million from SL Benfica back in 2019, the Portuguese forward endured a difficult initiation period as he found it hard to get going in Diego Simeone’s rigid system.
But over time, he has grown into a vital player for Los Rojiblancos. The 22-year-old finished the last season with a return of ten goals and six assists from 35 matches in all competitions. He has already set up three goals in four games in the new season.
Given his unlimited potential, Felix has constantly attracted a lot of admirers from across Europe. And according to Fabrizio Romano, there were several clubs that made an approach for the 22-year-old attacking ace during the summer transfer window.
However, Atletico Madrid were quick to turn down all those offers as they deem Felix as ‘100% untouchable’. So much so that the Colchoneros are unwilling to sell him even for a fee greater than €100 million.
Manager Diego Simeone acknowledged the growth and progress that the 22-year-old had shown through his time at the club, saying: “Joao is at his best moment since we have been working together. He is a lot more mature, stronger, sure of himself.”
Reports earlier this summer indicated that Manchester United went hard after Felix, even lodging an offer worth around €130 million. However, both the player and Atletico Madrid were uninterested in listening to the proposal and swiftly turned it down.
Having kept hold of him, Atleti will be hoping that the 22-year-old Felix goes on to enjoy a big season this time out.
Atletico Madrid midfielder on the derby against Real Madrid: “Very difficult to beat them”
Following a 1-1 draw in their Champions League opener against Lazio, Atletico Madrid will shift all their attention to La Liga, as they brace themselves for the derby against Real Madrid this weekend.
Heading into this game, Atleti midfielder Marcos Llorente spoke about Real Madrid’s quality and Atletico Madrid’s chances of squeezing all three points from this iconic derby.
Llorente on Madrid derby
“The sensations are good. The team is very good, the other day we played a great game despite ending up drawing. I really think that the team did a great job that must be maintained for this match,” Llorente said in an interview with Diario AS.
When asked whether or not Real Madrid being tagged as favourites could aid Atleti, the midfielder said, “Honestly, it neither motivates me nor demotivates me. We simply have to do what we work on during the week, what the coach asks of us.”
Llorente stressed the importance of the game, adding, “It is a great rival we have in front of us, they are having a very good start to the season and that motivates me and everyone to try to play a good game.”
“Real Madrid is a great club, they have great players and it is very difficult to beat them. I think we have competed, we have also achieved several draws, but in the end, either you go out one hundred percent and do things very, very well or it is difficult to beat them,” he added.
A former member of the Real Madrid youth academy, Llorente joined Atletico Madrid in 2019. Since then, he has racked up over 150 competitive appearances for Los Colchoneros.
Llorente, though, said he feels no sense of vindication when he performs well against his former team.
“No. In the end, it’s been many years since I left there and I’m at Atlético. Perhaps in the first years, those types of feelings and sensations can arise, but today they no longer do,” he said.
Llorente on Vinicius, Koke & Bellingham
The Atletico Madrid star went on to talk about other aspects of the game, including the fact that his team had one less player every time they faced Real Madrid last season.
“I have zero worries. These are things that are not in our remit, that escape our hands. We play football, the referees referee and those who have to decide decide,” he said.
Llorente, in fact, said that the return of Koke could be a real boost for Atleti. “It is always good that Koke is with us, both on the field and in the day-to-day life of the game,” he said.
“Beyond the grass. The support he gives, the advice he gives us, his experience. it is always important to have him and it is great news that he is already training with us,” he added.
Talking about the absence of Vinicius Junior and the form of Jude Bellingham, Llorente said, “Well, you have to be careful with everyone. All Real Madrid players are very good and can make a difference at any moment of the game. Bellingham is having a great start and we have to take that into account and be very focused.”
Finally, Marcos Llorente put out a message for all the Atletico Madrid fans, claiming their support ahead of this crucial encounter this weekend.
“It will be a full house as always. We don’t have to tell them anything, they know the importance of this match for Atlético, we know that they never fail, they are always supporting us and we count on them,” he said.