Club Atlético de Madrid's No7 Antoine Griezmann told Champions Matchday about big expectations, team spirit and mimicking Fernando Torres's celebrations as a boy.
Article top media content
There was no little pressure on Antoine Griezmann when he arrived at Club Atlético de Madrid last summer after five successful seasons with Real Sociedad de Fútbol. Brought in to replace the goals and guile of the departing Diego Costa and David Villa, he also had to deal with the expectations generated by a €30m fee representing Atleti's second-biggest ever transfer behind Radamel Falcao.
Coach Diego Simeone had fought off strong competition from across Europe to land his man and the 24-year-old forward's performances and versatility have justified the expenditure. In his opening months in Madrid, the French international played as a wide midfielder – both left and right-sided – and as a No10, yet he has also shone up front in recent weeks.
Here, Griezmann talks to Champions Matchday about adapting to his new side, working with Simeone and learning from a Rojiblancos great.
Atlético's squad is very different from last season, but still playing well. What is the secret to the new players settling in so quickly?
Antoine Griezmann: The players who were here already have done everything to help the new players fit in. And we have integrated well. We know the coach asks a lot from us during training and on the pitch. And little by little we are feeling better.
How have you found adapting to a new club?
Griezmann: I knew people expected a lot of me because I was the club's second-biggest transfer, so I try to give it back on the pitch, to make sure the fans and my team-mates are happy. It's a different style of football, but I knew I could do it. I am confident and I knew things would come off if I worked hard.
What do you consider to be your role and responsibilities within the Atlético team?
Griezmann: Since joining, I have been at the disposal of the team and of the coach. I knew I would integrate into the side little by little. I didn't worry too much and now I am in the starting XI. I need to continue working hard on helping the team and on meeting the coach's expectations.
Diego Simeone is developing a reputation as one of the finest young coaches in the game. What has he been like to work with?
Griezmann: He is a real leader, who impresses during his team talks. He encourages you, and you want to give everything for him and for the team. That is his strength. He tries to motivate us. I learn every day from working with him.
Your coach has said Atlético's game is based on "intensity and aggression".
Griezmann: It's not only about one or 14 players, it is about the whole squad that gets on well together and gives everything during training. We saw it against SD Eibar [Atleti's 3-1 Liga away win in January]. There were seven changes from the game before, yet we were strong, we were good and we took the three points.
What has the return of Fernando Torres done for the dressing room and what can you learn from him?
Griezmann: I can learn a lot. He is a great player who has scored a lot of goals. When he came, I asked him to give me all the advice he could, and said I would listen to it all. I watch each and every move he makes on the pitch.
Who was your favourite player growing up?
Griezmann: I liked Zinédine Zidane, David Beckham, David Silva and ... I recently called a mate of mine who is a fan of Torres, and we said: "Do you remember when we copied his goal celebrations on the pitch in our neighbourhood?"
Describe a UEFA Champions League night at the Vicente Calderón.
Griezmann: There's a lot of joy. I want to give everything for the fans who are singing and supporting us. The whole stadium is behind its local club. It is a good thing for us, and we trust them to support us.
Can Atlético reach the final again this season? If so, what will be the key to another great run in the competition?
Griezmann: I think so, but we mustn't think too far ahead. We will see how far we can go. But I am convinced that with hard work and the level of football we are producing at the moment, we can do it.