Atletico Madrid defender Juanfran insists boss Diego Simeone is ‘like a father’ to him and maintains he owes him everything.
The Spanish international, who signed for Atleti from Osasuna in January 2012, has just penned a contract renewal at the Vicente Calderon that will keep him at the club until 2017, and in an interview with AS could not wait to tell of his gratitude towards the Argentine.
“In a football sense I owe him everything because the first day he arrived he put me in at full-back against Malaga, before playing me at centre-back against Villarreal in his second game.
“From that point on I have never been out of the team and from a personal point of view he has been like a second father to me.
“When I’ve gone through bad times he has known how to give me important advice, telling me he thought a lot of me whether I’ve been good or bad, letting me know clearly what I should continue doing or improve upon.
“It has helped me become the player I am and, like I said, in footballing terms I owe him everything.”
Juanfran, 28, also told of his delight at signing his new agreement and what playing for Atletico means to him.
“This [renewal] is what I most wanted. I am super happy to stay at Atletico Madrid, the best club I could be at and one where I’m winning titles and having a great time.
“This is a historical club and one that has a great mass of supporters, together with prestige and identity. That is what Atletico is about and it feels part of your life, the way you are.
“When you arrive here you get involved straight away and realise what it is, the commitment you have when you wear the red and white shirt, the demands that make you strive to improve knowing that every game is a test.
“In many respects I’ve grown as a footballer having gone through a bad time with Gregorio Manzano, who hardly picked me, to Cholo [Simeone], where it has all been onwards and upwards.
“I’ve had the opportunity to win trophies and become an important player for Atletico and that has opened the door to my selection for the national team.
“Being important at another club would not have opened that door, but when you are at one as big as this then the impact is much greater,” he explained.