Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke says he was inspired as a child by watching Fernando Torres play in a rojiblanco shirt, but he hopes the now Chelsea centre-forward has a poor game in Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Madrid-born Torres joined Atletico’s youth system aged just 11, was already captain of the senior side by 19. He scored 84 goals in 214 Liga appearances before joining Liverpool in 2007, laying a legacy which meant the now 30-year-old was warmly welcomed by fans when he and his current teammates arrived at Madrid's Barajas airport on Monday evening.
Also locally-born Koke, who has more recently followed a similar path through the Calderon youth ranks to the first team, told the official pregame news conference that Atletico’s fans would be happy to see their former hero back to his best again, but not in Tuesday’s match.
“Fernando Torres has always been an inspiration for me,” Koke said. “I'm sure all the fans will be happy to see him here. We wish him all the luck in the world, but not in the game.”
Koke, 22, said that he could hardly believe he would soon be playing in Atletico’s first European Cup semifinals in 40 years.
“To play a Champions League semifinal with the team you have supported as a child is a dream,” Koke said. “If I'm picked it will be an incredible experience for me. Tomorrow could be the most important game of my life.”
Meanwhile, Koke’s teammate Filipe Luis has told AS that reaching this stage was an immense achievement for Atletico -- whose budget of about 120 million euros is a fraction of that enjoyed by the other three semifinalists.
“What is happening this year is strange, something which does not normally happen, where there is a project coming for many years with almost the same players,” Filipe said. “The last expensive buy was Raul Garcia, who cost 17 million euros seven years ago. We are a team who hardly without spending anything have maintained a base and, with a great coach, is achieving something very big. This does not happen every year, just once every 20 or 30.”
The Brazil international said a team ethic instilled by coach Diego Simeone had helped Atletico overcome the odds.
“The other teams have come with individuals or skills from a star player,” Filipe said. “We have done it without any superstar. Maybe Costa and Villa stand out a bit, but nobody is better than anybody. They are the first who start to defend, nobody holds anything back. Everyone gives everything. Diego Costa almost broke his leg trying to score a goal. As a team, we are the best.”
Atletico are also closing in on the Liga title with just four games remaining to play, but the former Real Madrid trainee said he and his teammates would continue to concentrate on doing their own work in each game.
“I do not score many goals or give assists, but I try and play the best for the team,” Filipe said. “In every shot at goal I try to get to any rebound from Courtois and in every ball Godín jumps for I try and cover behind him.
"The fans do not see that, but for the coach and the team it is very important. All my teammates and I are making history with this club, and that is not easy. Now we are taking on Chelsea and it will probably be the most important game of our lives. We are also fighting for La Liga with just four games left. That says a lot about the season we are having.”