When Atletico Madrid faced Sevilla in La Liga this past weekend, captain Koke reached a huge personal milestone. Starting the game, the Spanish midfielder became the player with the most number of appearances in the history of the club, going past Adelardo Rodriguez.
The 30-year-old has been at the club throughout his career and has been a mainstay in the side for a decade or so. In the process, he has stepped out on the pitch for Atletico Madrid 555 times, most by any player.
And earlier today, the club held a homage ceremony in honour of their captain’s record, where he was felicitated with a plaque to commemorate his achievement. At the same time, the previous record holder, Adelardo Rodriguez was also honoured by the Rojiblancos.
Speaking at the event, Koke said: “I feel very nervous. It’s a very special day for me, it was last Saturday. Today I have here someone who has been a part of me since I started my career until today. They have all contributed their grain of sand to be the person I am.
“Beyond fighting for Atletico Madrid, which is what I’ve felt since I was little, there are the values that my parents have transmitted to me and those that each one of them has transmitted to me and that is why they deserve credit for my having achieved this.”
Looking back at his career, Koke said that he felt proud of everything he had achieved at Atletico Madrid, saying: “Reviewing my career I feel proud. There are many mixed feelings, but in the end, it’s about feeling what you do. I told my colleagues the other day: it’s important to feel identified with what you do and with what you feel.”
He further mentioned that he wanted to continue for much longer. After Koke spoke, tributes followed for the skipper as fellow captains Jan Oblak, Jose Maria Gimenez and Stefan Savic took to the stage to congratulate him.
“Koke, first congratulations, what you have achieved is wonderful and any child in the academy dreams of it, just as you dreamed of it at the time,” Gimenez said.
“Thank you for the colleague you are, for the person you are, and because from the place you had, you guided us with a word, but above all with an example. May you continue writing this beautiful story, which as You said, I’m not done yet.”
Manager Diego Simeone also lauded his ward, saying: “I was lucky as a coach when I arrived to find a young boy with many intentions, a lot of enthusiasm, who was growing and learning from all the teammates he had and who marked the path that he is marking today.”
“We already talked about it in the locker room when we congratulated him: a person with commitment, with responsibility, always leaving aside the place that he has in each game looking for the best for the team. That is the way to go.”
Then several former Atletico Madrid stars like Tiago, Luis Suarez, Gabi, Juanfran, Raul Garcia, Diego Godin, Filipe Luis and Radamel Falcao, among others, sent messages to Koke through a pre-recorded video.
“What you are achieving is thanks to your effort and sacrifice. Every day you earn your job, you are the player who runs the most and who makes his teammates grow the most. Thank you and keep enjoying yourself,” former captain Gabi said.
“You have a big heart and that is the most important thing to grow in this club. Things are going so well for you because of the big heart you have. I ask all the players to look at you so that they know why things are going so well for you,” Juanfran said.
Another video filled with messages from former stars like Dani Martin, Rodri, Lucas Hernandez, David de Gea followed.
Koke also received well wishes from Barcelona icons Xavi Hernandez, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets, along with Spain manager Luis Enrique and ex-Atletico boss Quique Sanches Flores.
Another Atletico Madrid legend, Fernando Torres, also paid tribute to Koke, saying: “I’m sure Koke feels very proud of what he’s achieving.
“Never change and being the way you are is what has brought you here. Don’t get tired and keep inspiring everyone who come from behind. We need to dream and we know that if you dream big… you can achieve anything.”
Winding up the ceremony, president Enrique Cerezo said: “You only made me have a bad week in these 24 years that we have spent together. When you went from cadet to youth and Real Madrid came for you.
“It is true that I gave my best, but otherwise I would have felt your complicity and If you hadn’t wanted to continue at this club… well, we wouldn’t be living all this. Thank you for your behaviour and your performance.”
Source: Atletico Madrid YouTube
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.