ATLÉTICO | KOKE
Koke: “Winning the Champions League? Why not?”
The Atlético midfielder sat down in the company of AS to look back over 2015 and forward to the New Year.
Atlético midfielder Jorge Resurrección ‘Koke’ sat down for an informal chat in the company of Diario AS to look back over events of 2015 and forward to the New Year.
Do you know any other other players who, like yourself, slept with a football when they were kids?
Er... I don’t know! I’ve never asked anyone: “Hey, did you used to sleep with a football?” (laughs).
How did the habit start with you?
I don’t know (laughs)! It’s like when you get a teddy bear and you sleep with it, for me it was a football.
What did your mum think about it?
When the ball got muddy after we’d been playing with it, she wouldn’t let me take it to bed – it would make the sheets dirty, you see (laughs).
Your brother Borja was also a footballer, did you practice together in the hall?
Sometimes. But our house wasn’t very big and our mum would let us go down to the park - much better that way as we couldn’t break anything.
You joined Atlético aged 7. At that time Fernando Torres was the big reference. Do you remember watching him train?
Yes, of course. All of the kids wanted to be like him. We’d say: “If he can do it, so can we”. We had that dream... And I was lucky enough to see it come true.
Did you every ask him for a photograph?
Yes. Once, not long after I had joined, we had a photo taken with him and all of the kids in the youth team; I had the opportunity to get one with him and Luque.
Now you share the same dressing room…
It’s great to be honest, it really is. You’ve got the person you idolized as a kid next to you, the player whose footsteps you wanted to follow, and you tell yourself: “Fu...”. Every day I try to learn something from him.
What was it like the first time you were part of the first team dressing room?
Uff! I was just overwhelmed, amazed… (laughs). It was a dream for me to be training with the senior squad, just being there. And I was a bit startled, very nervous – but later, when you’re out on the ball and playing the ball around, all of that quickly vanishes.
Which of the team mates you have known has surprised you the most?
As a person, Gabi,and as a player... a lot of them; Kun [Agüero] could win a game all on his own. [Diego] Forlán could shoot from absolutely anywhere and they would nearly always go in. Diego [Costa] too, he’d win games on his own. Erm... Arda as well was spectacular. And Diego Ribas… There have been lots, so many.
Which player do you miss the most?
Mmm. I think Thibu [Courtois], for the friendship we had. We were room mates and we were always together.
And Raúl García
Yes. His departure was like… you’re leaving? Really? I thought he would always be with us. He’s a spectacular guy - humble, hard-working and he never puts on a long face... You always want a player like him in your team.
2015 is coming to an end, what kind of year was it for you?
There was a bit of everything – some complicated moments after so many injuries, others when I wasn’t at my best and some when I was.
And for the team?
We’ve gone through big changes in personnel with new players coming in and a very good project up and running. Younger players, good footballers, who have been adapting and we reached our objective which was to finish third. I think next year will be even better – at least I am hoping so.
The worst moment in 2015 was probably Tiago’s injury; what was it like to experience that out on the pitch?
Very tough. When he was down injured, we knew that it was serious. He was really in pain. When I saw it, I only though: “God, please don’t let this be anything too serious”.
How much has his absence affected the team?
He’s an important player for us – he gives us equilibrium.
Do you study videos of games afterwards like Griezmann and Moyà do?
No. I’ve never been into studying my own performances. I prefer to focus on what I did well or badly during a game – more in the things I did badly, to improve and not commit the same mistakes again.
You once said that the best player you have had to face was Messi; what can you do when you have him in front of you?
Well, you have to try to be completely focused because, even if you are at 100 per cent, he’s going to do something different – something you don’t expect. For example: you know that he is out on the right and at some point, he’s going to cut inside… you have an idea of what he might do and you try to take the ball off him but you can’t because he just too good, it’s very difficult to stop him.
What role does Simeone play in your career?
He’s an influence in practically everything I’ve done. When I started out, he gave me the confidence to exploit the footballer inside.
In one-to-one relationships, in the dressing room, out on the pitch, what’s he like?
Always the same, just the same. In training, outside of work, when we are on the road… He’s the exactly the same, always. His philosophy is his way of life and he transmits the same thing on the pitch and off it. He always tries to help everyone and he always thinks about the group – a united and strong group is what leads to success.
Godín told me that his mother has the shirt he wore when Atleti won the league. Where is yours?
At home, with all of the shirts I have which, when I retire, I’ll get them framed and hang them all up together.
Which ones are in your collection?
Mostly ones from finals. The one I don’t have is the one I wore on my debut – my mum’s got that one, I gave it to her as a present.
...and the ones you have exchanged with other players, which ones are particularly special to you?
Three of them - Fernando Torres’, Xavi’s and Iniesta’s.
Godín says winning the Champions League is a dream and an objective for Atleti in 2016. Do you think it’s possible?
Why not? It’s what all of us dream about – the fans and the players. But we also have to be realistic, we know how difficult it is but it’s an objective for the fans who want us to win everything and we feel the same as they do. The club’s objective is to make sure we qualify for the Champions League every year and try to qualify from the group stage…
The team’s done that this season…
Yes (smiles), that’s one thing we have done. Let’s hope we can reach the final again – and maybe win it, why not?.