Saturday's UEFA Champions League final in Lisbon between Club Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid CF will be a poignant occasion for Rojiblancos right-back Juanfran.
The 29-year-old started his career across the Spanish capital at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, making six Liga appearances for the nine-time European Cup winners before moving on loan to RCD Espanyol and then sealing a permanent switch to CA Osasuna in August 2006.
His performances in Pamplona convinced Atlético to pay a reported €4m for his services four and a half seasons later. Having made his debut for Atlético against Madrid in a Copa del Rey tie in January 2011, he is now preparing to face his former employers in another "special" match – the first between two teams from the same city in the 59-year history of the European Cup.
"I'm very grateful to Madrid for the years I spent there, how they treated me and trained me, but now I'm an Atlético Madrid player and I am aware I've been wearing the best colours," he told UEFA.com. "I will give my best for this club, just as I have done for all the clubs I have played at. Of course, matches against Real Madrid are different, they are more special, but all I want and all I think about, above all, is victory for Atlético – the past is behind me."
Juanfran joined the Colchoneros 11 months before Diego Simeone was appointed coach. He credits the ex-Argentina midfielder with having a huge influence on the squad, both individually and collectively. "Since he arrived, it's been the same for me as it has been for the rest of the team," he said.
"Step by step we have become a very good team, a team of tremendous players. We have all improved. Since he's been here I've tried to improve in areas where I have weaknesses. Step by step, with his help, I'm becoming a very good defender."
Lifting the cup nicknamed 'Old Big Ears', what would that mean? "It would be incredible, for me and my family," said the Spanish international. "They are proud of what I have done and what I am doing, but, of course, being a European champion and being the best team in Europe is as good as it gets."
To hear more from Juanfran, including on the semi-final second-leg victory against Chelsea FC in which he set up two goals, click on the video player above.
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