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As.com | 27/11/2012
Would you take a draw at the Camp Nou and at the Bernabéu?
The players go out there with the goal of winning. I wouldn't agree to any draw. Sometimes things happen and you get a draw, ok, but when the players come out on the pitch they come out to win.
But would a draw be a good result?
We think differently as players. We always want to win and that's how we face challenges. The competitive spirit of winning and overcoming your opponents is innate.
But Madrid will be very fired up; motivated and concentrated...
I've played lots of big derbies. In this type of game, the external situations are forgotten and the players come out to win without of any kind of weight on their shoulders. That's how they'll approach it and we'll be on our guard.
What makes you better this year?
We're really strong as a team. More united and more compact, perhaps.
You've never played at the Bernabéu, have you?
Never, never. I would have played there with Colombia against Spain but I was injured , and I missed out on it last year too. It seems like a lovely stadium fit for football.
The legend has it that Atleti shrink when they're there, and Madrid sense it and pounce.
That's what they say... well, I've never played there and I don't have the experience to check that. But the players are professionals and they know how to act on different pitches and against different types of pressure.
The last time Atleti won there was in '99, 1-3. That year Atleti went down to the Segunda División. What makes you think that this year will be different?
These kinds of opportunities against a classic rival renew your enthusiasm. It's a match we all want to play in, and win. We'll go there with a lot of ambition. We know how both club's are doing, and all the circumstances. But that doesn't have an impact in a derby. The players put it to one side and give their all to win.
What has brought about this new chapter at Atleti? Is it all Simeone's work?
He's been important. His way of thinking and experiencing football; his ability to communicate ideas to us on the pitch and the confidence he's given to each player has allowed the team to raise itself up.
You don't see yourself finishing your career with Atleti, do you?
I said that I'd like to finish my playing days at Millionarios, the team I support in Colombia, where I've never played. Life is good there. I'm very comfortable there and I enjoy the city.
You had us pretty scared for a minute there; they said that your were going, perhaps after Christmas, that you weren't coming back... and that's why you're not playing in the Europa League.
No, no, come off it...
Anyway, on Saturday you'll be there, won't you?
Do you know if you'll play against Jaén on Wednesday?
I still don't know. Until tomorrow after training when the boss announces the squad we won't know anything.
Do you think the press gives Mourinho a hard time?
I didn't see the press conference. I don't concern myself with the statements of other clubs' coaches. What I do know is that Mourinho caused a stir in the countries where he's lived.
You know Simeone better... because you met him when you were very young.
I met him when I was 21 at River.
You go to Argentina at 15, and make your professional debut when you're only 13. How do you debut at 13 years old?
In Colombia at that time there were rules to train young players which let them bring you on for a minute and later make a change; even so, they gave me my debut early. I was very excited, but not nervous. Football already had me very motivated.
And who made you a real player?
From a very young age I experienced it through my father who was a player. When I was a child I worked to be a professional player and he guided me a lot.
He was a defender. Did you see him play?
Yes. I saw him at the end of his career. It was hard to watch him because I didn't want them to score against him... also, I was already into goals and I wanted him to go up and head one in.
Who were your idols as you were developing as a player?
I was always a big watcher. I learnt a lot from the Ronaldos, Batistutas, Crespos... I learnt things from each coach and incorporated them into my game. But there wasn't one who made me the footballer I am. I learnt and trained gradually.
What were those years in Argentina like, and where were you living?
It was a family decision. We knew my ambition was to play in Argentina and the option of River came up. Things were right so I could go and my parents were comfortable with it. I lived in the house that River has for players that come from abroad, for four years. There were about 80 players in that place, including Mascherano and Bounanotte.
I see that Soldado's stamp has given you a scar. Have you spoken to him? Have you forgiven him?
I haven't spoken to him since the match. I spoke to him when it happened.
Did what your father said in a very innocent way at that assembly annoy you?
I was fine, with Colombia. You ask any kids today which teams they like and they say the champions of the various leagues in Europe, but I'm very happy and enjoying my football at Atlético Madrid. The media create suspicion and invent news that doesn't distract me from me objectives and my focus.
What is special about Spanish football?
The large majority of teams try to play nice football, moving the ball. It's a pleasure to play against teams that with small budgets try to play well. The football is very good in Spain.
How do you deal with the popularity?
I try to make sure it doesn't influence what is really important, which is my performances on the pitch, and that it doesn't change me at all. I want to enjoy it and share it with the people that surround me, but I know that one day it will end.
Have you met Kaká at church?
Yes, we're friends and we've shared some moments there.
Do you pray in the dressing room before a match?
I try to pray with simple words all the time. Something natural and not so forced.
Do you know any other Madrid players besides Kaká?
I met Cristiano through our agent and we've chatted a bit. I was with Higuaín at River and we played together as kids. He's a year younger than me.
Has your idea of Atlético Madrid changed after winning the titles?
That was the target. To give Atlético a new standing in Spain and Europe. It was a personal challenge to come to the best league in the world and earn a place. Everything has gone very well, winning titles and scoring goals.
Has Atleti changed you?
I've continued to grow here and that's meant focusing more on the finer points of football, trying to inform myself about many things.
Ideal city to live? Bogotá.
Which person has influenced you most in sport? Simeone.
And in your personal life? Jesus.
Would you take a Ballon d'Or podium of Messi, Falcao and Cristiano? That isn't up to me.
If it depended on you alone, would you stay at Atleti next season? It doesn't depend on me.
Qualify for the Champions League or win the Copa del Rey? Qualify for the Champions League.
Win the Champions League or play at the World Cup with Colombia? Win the World Cup.
The best player of all time? Maradona.
Is the Liga battle between Barça and Atleti? No.
Who would you give the best coach prize to: Mou, Guardiola or Del Bosque? Simeone.
Do you think we know Colombia well in Spain? No.
Gárate, Gento, Aragonés... Which one didn't play for Atlético? Gento.