As a former Atlético Madrid player, what have you made of their season so far? What has allowed Diego Simeone to find success playing an attacking brand of football at the club?
Diego Forlan: As an ex-player I’m really happy with their success because it’s a great club with great fans who are enjoying the football. Every coach needs time which is a hard thing to come by in football, but the way Simeone has handled things is brilliant. He won things two years ago with a team of talented players like Gabi, Diego Godin and Juanfran. He said that was their time and he has now adapted and brought in new players.
Last season was not what everybody expected. The fans wanted them to fight for the title and many were unhappy because they believed they had the players to fight for the Championship. They had a good season, were strong in the Champions League and managed to secure a qualification spot in the league. Having learnt from that experience you can see that they are doing really, spearheaded by Suárez scoring a lot of goals. The team is solid defensively and have a great squad.
How integral has Luis Suárez been to this team and what do you think he offers – apart from goals – that has made this team go the next level?
He’s very experienced and has scored a lot of goals in his career. I am not surprised at the success he is having because he was showing great form for Barcelona at the end of last season. His decision to leave Barcelona was not a footballing one. It was other things and that’s a pity.
He’s a player who could play for any club and do well, as we are seeing with Atlético Madrid. I’m really happy for him and it’s great to see him score so many. He is a leader in the team, helping them in so many ways with assists, creating chances, defending etc.. He’s such a good player.
What have you made of Edison Cavani’s form at Manchester United this season?
I’m very impressed. It’s a different situation to Suárez as he had a six-month break without playing. Ole Gunnar Solskjær is doing a great job and giving him the minutes to thrive. He has an important role in the team and is helping the young players at a great club to settle in. He’s helping the team fight for titles which is very important. I’m confident he will keep getting the minutes and with his physical strengths I think he can continue playing for many years.
What did it mean to you to experience European glory with Atlético Madrid and to play so well in that final?
It was a good season for me and a good moment in my career. We had a good team and played well in the Champions League despite getting knocked-out before our run in the UEFA Europa League. Those guys were very good to me, personally and professionally. It felt really, really good.
You played with a young Sergio Agüero, what do you think of his progression which has seen him become one of the best strikers in the world?
You could always see he was going to be a great player. He was already very good at that age. It’s not a surprise to see what he has become. He’s so talented, very quick and very strong. He’s the top score in Manchester City’s history and I believe he only needs one more hat-trick to have the most in Premier League history. Those numbers are phenomenal.
Were there any moments during your time with the international team where the sheer competitiveness of Suárez stood out for you?
We played in a tournament that happened each day before a game and we were desperate to win. Everybody was, especially Luis. We then had a game of pool and made sure to always play each other. I won a few times and Luis always paid up which is admirable. I won more than I lost which is great. He would then come up to me in the airport and say: “Did you hear that this is the day I spent the whole time with you?”
Did you ever have to tell him to calm down?
No, no, no, no. He’s a very nice guy. We still keep in touch and whenever he scores I send him a message. It’s nice because he did the same when I was scoring for Manchester united and Villareal. I did have to say to him though that I can’t send a message for every goal because you play every two days! You will talk to me more than your wife! I told him I would send him messages when it’s a special occasion. It turned out that I had to message him the next day because he scored two anyways, but I won’t send him another unless he hits 10.
What do you think is the reason for Suárez finding top form again?
I think the media was targeting him in the wrong way, because I didn’t agree in that moment that he was playing badly. There were comments about his physique but that has never changed. In his final days at Barcelona the club needed someone to hate and criticise. He was the perfect target because he argues and fights with the other teams. Many don’t like him including the fans. Some journalists don’t like that side to him. You have to remember that Real Madrid and Barcelona have different journalists. At Barcelona they are from Catalonia, and the other journalists are from Spain. He scored many goals last season. I don’t remember the exact number, but it will have been more than 20 which is great at any club. Of course, when he is the top scorer, he scored upwards of 30 and people expect that every season. He still did his job and played well in the Champions League. When they didn’t win everything, someone had to take the blame. Messi is not going to be that person.
What does a LaLiga mean to you?
I am grateful for LaLiga and I love being an ambassador. I had the opportunity to play for over seven years. I really enjoy life and football right now. It’s a great country and the best league in the world with the best teams and players. I’m grateful and privileged for being an ambassador and the opportunity to play for so many years.
Alternative Sport/Verge Magazine spoke with Diego Forlan at an international LaLiga event
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