Atletico Madrid midfielder Raul Garcia feels he has finally got his career back on track with Los Rojiblancos this season.
The 26-year-old was farmed out on loan to Osasuna last term with his time at the Vicente Calderon looking as if it had come to an end.
However, a return to Atleti under boss Diego Simeone has resulted in a dramatic change in fortune for the Pamplona-born player, and he believes it is the spell with former club Osasuna that is the reason for his renaissance.
“I went to Osasuna for personal reasons and to restore the confidence I had lost at Atleti by not getting the minutes I wanted,” he told AS.
“It was a year that went very well both personally and at a team level. It was good all year as we accomplished all our objectives, but I have to thank [Jose Luis] Mendilibar. “Having analysed me he put me in the position behind the main strikers, trusting me and instilling a lot of confidence, so in the end I had a good year,” said Garcia, who scored 11 goals in 33 La Liga appearances at El Sadar.
Garcia says it was Simeone who subsequently persuaded him he could relaunch his Atleti career.
“He told me what he was hoping for from me, saying I was a player he was counting on and that he had seen my games at Osasuna and I was someone who could contribute to the team.
“Everything is now positive and I’m happy. I was not in the starting line-up at first but I’ve had playing time since. As for goals, I attempt to seize the chances when they come and I think I’ve done that so far.”
Now in his fifth season with the club, Garcia is finally being played in his favourite position behind the frontmen and is slowly regaining the fans’ approval after being applauded during last week’s 2-1 win over Malaga.
“It is somewhere I played before I even arrived at Atleti. I feel much more comfortable there as I can get forward and score goals, but I’m limited to what the Coach asks of me. If he wants me to play deeper then I’ll try to do that equally as well.
“I’ve never spoken about the fans in good times or bad. I respect them and if they want to criticise then they criticise and if they want to give you praise they will do. I just try to do my work as well as possible.”
Asked who is responsible for the team’s success so far this season, he feels it has been a collective effort.
“You’ve got to hand the coaching staff credit because it’s them that give us the day-to-day intensity that allows us not to relax. Obviously, it is also the players who understand what the Coach wants and play each game as if it was their last.”
Nonetheless, the former Spain Under-21 international is aware of the dangers of getting carried away, particularly since many fans in Spain consider Simeone’s men to be potential title contenders this term.
“There is a lot of euphoria but it is the players who must not get carried away by it. We must continue working the same way because when things are going well there is more expectation.
“I think we should just enjoy the moment because right now the team is high up in La Liga and doing well in Europe, but we have to be careful as this is not just a matter of one day.
“If we don’t do things right then things could change within a matter of two or three weeks,” he added.