MADRID – Atlético de Madrid forward Luis Suárez declared in an exclusive interview with ESPN that he is hurt by the situation that FC Barcelona is going through in the hours before the game that will face his former team at the Metropolitano on Saturday.
The Uruguayan also spoke of how strange it will be for him not to play against Lionel Messi wearing the Barça shirt and recalled how Ronald Koeman behaved when he left the club a year ago.
– Luis, how did Atlético get to such an important match?
– Atlético-Barcelona is always a very difficult game. The team that plays the best for more than 90 minutes will win. We can’t be distracted for a minute. After the result of the other day, the team’s morale is really good, with a lot of confidence and we saw it the week before after turning the game around against Getafe. Yes it is true that, later, we lost against Alavés. We have to try not to make the same mistake again.
– What have you learned from this start of the season? What do they have to improve?
– We have to be aware of how important and difficult the first minutes are. If you don’t start with authority and conviction, putting pressure on the opponent in the first few moments … That sets the tone for the game. That is where you become strong and confident. The first few minutes are very important.
– Some fans ask that the matches not close to the last minutes …
– (laughs) We shouldn’t have to wait until the last few minutes! But anyway, we are used to it. At Atlético that’s the motto, don’t stop believing until the end. It depends on the circumstances of the game, but the players and the coach have to try to correct that, we shouldn’t suffer so much. But it is also reality, that is why you have to value winning the League last year: it is not easy, you have to fight to the end, football is very difficult today and La Liga even more so.
– But it tastes even better when you do it like this, you also have to admit it …
– It tastes better when you win! At the moment it is a pain, but obviously if you win, it tastes much better.
– In Atleti you are a leader in the team, you get very involved in the field. You are happy, right?
– Yes, I am happy and I am enjoying it a lot for having the trust of my teammates, the staff, the fans. They trust your potential and what you can contribute. Whether you are physically well or not, they believe in you and that makes me feel happy and important.
– You know Barça better than anyone. Seeing how Barça is doing, what could be the key to the game?
– We will have to be careful. Despite the state of form in which they are and that their morale is not good, there has been a lot of talk in recent weeks. They won the weekend, there was some euphoria and then they lost again (on Wednesday) and that hurts, but the team has to have character, you have to fight to turn the situation around and I think the players have their pride. We have to be very careful. We will try to take advantage of the moment in which they are now. These are difficult times but you can’t get carried away either.
– Seeing how they treated your departure and that of Leo (Messi), do you have even more desire to win?
– I am a player who loves this profession. I dedicate myself 100% or 150% to the shirt that I am wearing at the moment. I fought for Barcelona for many years with pride, I even became a fan of the club, but now I fight for Atlético de Madrid, who opened their doors to me after the way I left Barcelona, and I will fight for them until I no longer I can because I feel happy, I love my job and I don’t care what opponent I have in front of me.
– Does the way Koeman treated you still hurt?
– I said it at the time and that’s how they did it. I gave a lot to the club and I don’t think I deserved to be treated like that. You have to sit down with me, one by one, and explain everything to me. Don’t tell me that if my contract is not terminated on Wednesday, you will count on me against Villarreal. Or one thing or the other. They sent me to training camp 3 and 4 to train alone. Of course they are things that you do not forget. But I shouldn’t just think about that, but about doing my job well, showing that I can keep fighting for important things. Everything I did last year with Atlético is there and now I will continue to show it in the important moments.
– Do they come to the game as favorites?
– No, I don’t think so, there are no favorites. The other day we lost against Alavés, who were last in the table. We were the favorites. Games like Getafe, Alavés, are games that give you the League, they are important. But in the matches against your great rivals you show your level and you prove yourself. These encounters say something about the team and the players individually. In these games you have to fight.
– You and Antoine Griezmann, who have played there, look at what is happening at Barça and see what it was before, two years ago. Have you already noticed things that could have led you to be in this situation?
– Let’s see. We are both aware that in Barcelona you are in a very great team, that we did not show our level that year that we lost (8-2) against Bayern. Yes, we are conscious and very critical as players. We are responsible. Losing is one thing and how you lose is another. Yes, you have to be self-critical. But then you have to value it. It is not easy to go to Barcelona and stay at the level that I was, for example. Anyone can go to Barcelona but the thing is to maintain the level, with the demands of that club. I have to be proud of that. It hurts me to see what happens in the club. It hurts me as a fan that I am, because I have a lot of affection for the club. He gave me everything, he trusted me at a difficult time in my career. It hurts me for my friends there, for the friendships, for the people who work at the club on a daily basis. It hurts yeah
– You came here, you are important, you won the League and this season you are scoring goals. Is Atlético an oasis of happiness for you?
– For me and my family too. I see happiness when they see me in the field. It’s hard to be in a bad mood because there is a spectacular atmosphere within the team. Everything is positive, there is nothing wrong. That is what makes you feel loved in a family. Then you try to perform at your best and show people that we are happy living with that pressure to win and not get bored of winning. I have many trophies at the individual level, but I am not bored: I like to win and I like the challenge of continuing to win.
– That winning mentality of staying at that level, season after season, shows on the field.
– It’s what put me there. Since I was a child, it took me a lot to reach the highest level, to keep believing and fighting until the end. He made me like this. When things go wrong, I have more desire to do things right. I’ve always been like this.
– How many goals will you score on Saturday?
– Saturday? With the team winning is enough! If I have the opportunity to score, great, but if the team wins, I will be very happy.
– Will it be strange to play against Barça without seeing Leo playing for the Blaugrana?
– Yes, right now, yes. Last year it was strange to go back to the Camp Nou and see him playing opposite because of the relationship we have. Now it will be strange not to face him with the Barcelona shirt. But things happen for a reason and today he is in Paris and I am at Atlético. And a year ago we were together in Barcelona.
– You’re made of the same pasta, huh? You go to Atlético and you win the League; he goes with Argentina and wins the Copa América, then scores his goal against City the other day.
– I am happy as a friend and as a soccer fan. I love to see him happy and have fun scoring goals. It is a difficult moment because the changes are difficult, and obviously difficult at first, but seeing him smile and have fun like the other day, as a friend, I love it.