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Interview: Atlético’s Marcos Llorente on Manchester United, UEFA Champions League pressure and his mother’s oddly named dog | UEFA Champions League


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Under-used during his time at Real Madrid, the versatile Marcos Llorente has thrived since joining capital rivals Atlético in 2019, discovering new sides to his game – and goalscoring instincts – under the passionate leadership of Diego Simeone.

As his side head to Old Trafford with their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie against Manchester United level at 1-1, the 27-year-old tells about the secret of his success, the special quality of his coach and why his mother chose a strange name for her new dog.

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On the first leg against United

The team had a great game. In the end, if you are frustrated because you drew, it’s a good thing because it means you played better and you did more things than your opponent. I think that is the correct way of understanding it: on a positive note. The team showed they could compete with United. We’re very excited about the return leg.

On his ability to play in different positions

My high level of fitness coupled with my speed and stamina allow me to play as a full-back, a wing-back or to attack spaces as a central midfielder and perform at a good level in each role. Getting into the box from midfield is about joining the play as the ball is spread out wide and looking to get into the box to get on the end of a cross.

In terms of finding space, given that teams nowadays are set up well tactically, if you are static then it’s very difficult to find space and put the opposition on the back foot and create chances.

All Atlético's group stage goals

All Atlético’s group stage goals

Ultimately, finding space is not about waiting for the opposition to give you the space to exploit; it’s about the space you attack with your runs that allow the striker to get into a better position to receive the ball or a team-mate to occupy the space you just left free. For me, that’s a crucial skill, and if you have players in your team with that ability, it just adds to your team’s overall threat.

On thriving under pressure

I consider myself as someone who is drawn to difficult, complicated situations. I like it when things are tough and my opponent is stronger. For example, when I’ve played matches at full-back, I’ve enjoyed going up against Vinícius [Júnior] or Luis Díaz when he was at Porto.

Those kinds of situations give me more motivation and make me concentrate more. Some players may prefer not to go up against those kinds of opponents, but in those situations I set myself challenges: for example, shutting down a very good, very fast winger who can throw your balance. That’s something I really enjoy.

Does Llorente make your Fantasy side?

On Diego Simeone’s coaching style

He’s a very passionate coach. He puts his heart into everything and that’s what he demands of his players too. So, there’s that side to him and then the footballing side. I think it’s very difficult for a player without those qualities to have success in this team. Everything starts with passion and heart, and everything else follows. The coach knows what each of us has and what we can give, and I think that’s how he makes his decisions.

2019/20 highlights: Liverpool 2-3 Atlético

2019/20 highlights: Liverpool 2-3 Atlético

On his mother having a dog called Anfield

During lockdown, I gave a dog to my mum. My mum suffers a lot in my games; she gets very nervous. And that [3-2 2019/20 round of 16 win against Liverpool in which Llorente scored twice] stayed with her; the same as with me and many other people. It was a great moment for her, for me and for the family. As a way to remember it forever, she thought, heck, I’m going to name the dog Anfield and it would be a very nice memory for all of us.

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