“Perhaps it is not pretty to see, but the important thing is to win”

Thomas Lemar spoke to AFP prior to the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City. The Frenchman started as a starter at a high level, but injuries have been hampering his performance.

It has been a complicated month of March with injuries and covid. How is it going?

Better. I’m happy to have returned to training, to rejoin the group. I try to recover the rhythm little by little.

They missed the first leg in Manchester (1-0 for the English), but Atlético always responds when they are in difficulty…

It has always been like this, but we are not going to fool ourselves, we ourselves sometimes put ourselves in difficulties. Although we know that a game can be changed at any time, we would prefer not to be in so much trouble in several games. And against Manchester we spent a lot (laughs).

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Atlético’s defensive play in that game has been criticized a lot. What do you think?

I have nothing to say. You just have to look at the statistics since the coach (Diego Simeone) arrived. Perhaps he is not pretty to look at, but he is effective. The most important thing is that Atlético win.

Simeone’s demand for his players is well known. How have you lived it since he arrived in 2018?

I already had that worker profile, but I have continued to work hard on my weak points to turn them into strong points (…) And last year I had a talk with the coach and now I play in a more focused position, more in line with my style and that has made it easier for me to integrate into Atlético’s style of play.

What has improved with Simeone?

Especially in the defensive aspect, in the recovery of the ball, in the defensive withdrawal. I have worked a lot on that and now I am a more complete player than before.

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Is it your best season at Atlético?

On a statistical level, I would say yes, but on a collective level I would choose last season, in which we were (league) champions.

Atlético is fourth in the championship, followed by Betis by one point. Would it already be a successful season to finish in Champions positions?

I would say it would be a good season. As a competitor who always wants to win, you have to finish as high as possible. With the modest start to the season, if we finish a bit higher, it would be a good season.

At Atlético he coincides with Antoine Griezmann, a teammate of the French team. What relationship do they have?

We have a great complicity. I get along very well with him both on and off the pitch. The fact that he came back (after his stay at Barcelona) marked me and the club too, because although he was trained at Real Sociedad, he is a symbol of the club, someone who has given everything for Atlético. He is a great player and he is going to help us in this end of the season.

Precisely, injuries have separated him in recent times from the French team. The ‘Bleus’ won the League of Nations without you… did you feel frustrated?

When you play football it is to win titles. Of course I was happy that the team won that trophy, but it is clear that when you do not participate it hurts. But that’s football.

What is your objective with the ‘Bleus’?

Go to the World Cup. It’s a big goal for me. Yes, I have been out of the last calls due to physical problems, but I have always had that goal in mind, to be on the list for the World Cup.