Atlético Madrid have handled their justifiable share of heartbreak in recent times, particularly when shedding two Champions League finals to their metropolis rivals, however Diego Simeone has rebuilt his workforce with a core of gamers who are free from the emotional baggage of these disappointments.
Luis Suárez arrived from Barcelona in the summer season and has already scored 16 targets in La Liga. The defence has been equally spectacular, solely conceding 16 targets in 23 league video games. The Brazilian centre-back Felipe has performed his half in conserving the workforce tight at the again. He has come a good distance contemplating that, whereas Suárez was scoring targets for Ajax in the Champions League, Felipe was making a DVD of his finest strikes to ship to a second tier membership in Brazil.
“Atlético are at all times preventing to win titles,” says Felipe. “We knew we’d be robust this 12 months and we’ve improved on the issues we did mistaken final season – which is why we’re having fun with a nice second in La Liga. The Champions League is a bit totally different, as a result of each membership is powerful sufficient to win the title, and one mistake right here can harm us.”
Felipe is cautious of the menace Chelsea pose. After stuttering in the direction of the finish of Frank Lampard’s time in cost, they now look stable beneath Thomas Tuchel, who has not misplaced any of his seven video games in cost. Does the change of managers make Chelsea a harder proposition? “I assume that doesn’t make Chelsea any simpler to face,” says Felipe. “They’re robust, one in every of the finest in England and we’ve to look out towards them.”
Whereas Chelsea gamers have grow to be accustomed to managers coming and going, Atlético are a image of stability. There have been 9 totally different managers in the Chelsea dugout since Simeone took over at Atlético. Although Simeone is now into his tenth 12 months at the membership, Felipe believes he’s nonetheless their biggest asset. “When Simeone asks for one thing, he does so with readability and that’s one in every of the causes that we belief him much more,” he says.
“He has been at the membership for a few years and has been by the good, the dangerous and the ugly with Atléti. He believes in his work a lot and it’s paying off. New gamers shortly get used to this sort of surroundings, so we at all times strive to be on level. We deal with the workforce, on our guys wanting to play each recreation, and the solely different workforce that we fear about is the one we face subsequent. Each player at Atlético desires to play each match. We don’t know if we’ll win the Spanish title, however we’d like to hold the mentality we’ve to make it doable.”
Issues weren’t at all times this simple for Felipe. When he celebrated his 18th birthday, he began to assume he won’t realise his dream of turning into a footballer. He had simply began a job for his girlfriend’s mom, delivering mushrooms to eating places and cafés, and he was nonetheless enjoying São Paulo’s novice leagues. The lifetime of a Champions League footballer felt distant whereas he was nonetheless competing on astroturf pitches.
“I used to obtain about 50 or 60 reais for every recreation,” he says. “If you flip 18 and issues haven’t labored out, you begin to doubt that they are going to ever change. Regardless of that, I performed in the fourth division of the Campeonato Paulista for União Mogi and a good friend of mine, Bruno, gave me the thought to make a DVD of my finest highlights. I want to thank my good friend and his father, Itair, for serving to me obtain what I’ve now.”
Bruno was a ahead at Felipe’s membership and knew first-hand how gifted he was, so inspired him to make a 10-minute highlights video. Bruno’s father knew somebody with a connection in the recreation, so he arrange a assembly. “I met this man, gave him my DVD and he mentioned: ‘Go house and look forward to me to ring you.’ It took two months for him to name once more. I stored practising by myself, doing my workout routines and conserving match.”
To Felipe’s delight, the video made its approach to a membership in Brazil’s second tier. “My DVD went to Bragantino and the coach Marcelo Veiga preferred me. That was my huge alternative to make my dream come true and I embraced it.” Felipe signed for Bragantino in 2011 and, after making 33 appearances, he earned a transfer to Corinthians later that 12 months.
It was a huge step up and he had to look forward to his alternatives at first, however he did make it into the squad that travelled to Japan for the Membership World Cup in December 2012. Corinthians gained the competitors, beating Chelsea 1-0 in the ultimate. It was the first trophy of his career and stays the final time a membership from exterior Europe has gained the Membership World Cup.
After a while on the periphery of the workforce, Felipe’s career was given a large increase when present Brazil supervisor Tite returned to Corinthians in 2015. Felipe impressed the supervisor in pre-season and Tite rewarded him with a beginning place. He grabbed his probability, developed into one in every of the leaders of the workforce and went on to win the Brasileirão title that season.
Porto have been suitably impressed and signed him in 2016. He settled shortly, with the shared language serving to him bond with his teammates and coaches – though the communication was not at all times good. “There was a recreation towards Sporting the place I acquired subbed on throughout the second half and acquired a yellow card the minute I entered the pitch,” he says with a giggle. “The equipment man had made a mistake by giving me Tiquinho Soares’ shirt. We have been very shut – Tiquinho used to sit beside me – and it in all probability stemmed from that. However the remainder of the guys made enjoyable of me for a very long time after. They mentioned that I used to be in love with Tiquinho for not wanting to let go of his shirt.”
Felipe mentioned goodbye to Tiquinho and his Porto teammates in Could 2019, when Simeone took him to Madrid in a €20m deal. That price appears like a cut price now. Having frightened on his 18th birthday that he won’t make it as a footballer, he’s now enjoying for the finest workforce in Spain towards an English membership he as soon as confronted in Japan. Soccer was as soon as a fading dream for Felipe. Not anymore.