Koke has enjoyed a terrific season, having won LaLiga Santander with Atletico Madrid and regaining his spot in the Spanish national squad for Euro 2020.
The Atletico captain was instrumental in his club’s success, and the midfielder is hopeful of carrying that through to the European Championship.
Koke sat down with MARCA to speak about the tournament ahead.
It’s been your year, winning LaLiga and being called-up for Euro 2020
I’m very happy and excited about being back with the national team and to be able to defend my country. [I have] all the excitement in the world to have a good European Championship. It would be the culmination after a very good season.
Did you imagine something like this a year ago?
The truth is no, honestly. When you are not called several times, it is not that you lose hope, but you look at the list and you are not there again and again. When I entered the squad in November, I was very excited. I couldn’t have been happier about it, even more than the first time I came to the national team.
Did you look at the squad lists when you were out of it?
Yes of course. They usually coincide with training sessions and you always ask the delegate or a physio if you’re in. In November, when I was told that Marcos Llorente and I were in, we were extremely happy.
Did Luis Enrique say something to you when he came back?
No, nothing, nothing. I have had a normal relationship with Luis, like any other coach or manager. When we spoke, he told me that he had nothing against anyone, that I was doing well at my club and that he was going to ask me for different things and that he would introduce them little by little. Not much more. Imagine if he has to give explanations to everyone who passes through the national team or to all the Spanish players out there. It would be crazy.
I’m proud of everything I have done here. I want to add more games and be here as long as possible and that will only be achieved with work and doing things properly. I want the national team to win. It is what we come here for. I want him to compete well and win.
Is there a good sensation within the Euro 2020 team?
Yes, yes. For us it is much better to be in Las Rozas. If we were in a hotel we could not even leave the hotel room. Here we can go for a walk and disconnect a bit.
Are you going to ask the coach for free time to see the family?
We will manage it, but it will have to be decided by Luis Enrique with the medical services. We know what we have at stake and we must take the utmost care. Not only for the possible positive, but also for the people around us. It would be a disgrace. We have to be as isolated as much as possible from people. Hopefully it’s 40 days and we get to the end. It is a European Championship and you have to take extreme measures.
Luis Enrique has always said that he likes to attack and defend with the same intensity
He likes to have the same intensity. He says that the best defence is to have the ball. We are going to have the ball and when we don’t, we must be able to recover it. The objective is to attack and score goals, of course.
Are Luis Enrique and Diego Simeone alike in terms of intensity?
Yes, it’s true. Cholo goes one step further when it comes to training, because he always wants us to train to the fullest. It’s how you see him in games. Luis Enrique may be calmer, but he likes to train at one hundred percent. If you train well, you play well.
Is it a squad of the collective rather than the individual?
We have a team that have won a lot with their clubs and also with the national team. You have to mix to make a team. That is what can lead you to success. We must create a group and a good team to meet the objective, which is to win.
How have you experienced this pandemic?
It has been a very hard time for many people, too many. There have been many losses of family members, friends… Fortunately, I have not suffered. They have been very hard months, away from the people you love. I think that by playing football we have helped to clear the minds of the people. For people to say I’m going to put on the TV to see my team, Atleti, the national team or whoever it may be, it changes everything, it makes me happy. We have been fortunate to help people by playing football, helping out in tough times. And I hope we do it more in the Euro.