Raul Garcia is grateful for the ‘bad times’ he went through at Atletico Madrid as he prepares to face his former team with new employers Athletic Bilbao.
Garcia left Vicente Calderon for San Mames in the summer after eight years in the capital, but one of which was spent on loan at Osasuna as it appeared Garcia’s time was up, only to return as a crucial member of Diego Simeone’s title-winning team.
“It’s a special day for me. When you say goodbye you think about returning. Then the moment arrives,” the midfielder told AS in an interview when asked about going back to the Calderon this weekend.
“I left a lot of friends, in the squad and at the club. I’m in constant contact with them. Every week I speak with some of them.
“[That relationship] is what is most valuable. You can win all the trophies, what I’ve got is personal recognition. I try to be professional in everything I do, someone people can rely on. That’s what I had there.”
Garcia was asked about the point when it appeared his Atletico career was over, when he spent 2011-12 in Pamplona, and seemed not to have a future with his parent club.
“Perhaps that’s the reason there’s more of a bond with the fans. The bad moments made me mature. Nobody wants them, but they’re good to grow, to face the future. I work to excel myself every day,” he continued, before moving on to what playing Atleti means.
“It’s a mental issue. I have a good mind for different situations. Maturity allows you to isolate yourself from your feelings. It’ll be nice to play at the Calderon, but it’s three points. I’m motivated to do well against the people who saw me for so many years.
“People know who my friends are. I won’t try to hurt them, but I want to compete and win. If anyone wants me it’s because I always try to win and to do the right things.”
Garcia was asked if he would celebrate should he score against Atletico, and explained why players frequently show little emotion in netting against their former clubs.
“The truth is I respect Osasuna and Atletico a lot. This happened with Osasuna, I scored against them and had a strange feeling because it was what I had to do and it was a club that gave me the chance to be what I am. It’s the same as if I score for Athletic,” he said.
“It’s more symbolic than anything else [to not celebrate]. Respect is shown with many other things, but this is one way of showing it.”
Garcia also noted some of the differences between Athletic and Atletico, both on the pitch and what it’s like in Bilbao as compared to Madrid.
“I was treated very well in Madrid. The Atletico-Real Madrid rivalry is noticed on the street,” he admitted.
“Here it is quiet, the people are nice and I’m fortunate I can do what I like, walk with my wife and daughter, to be a normal person.
“I needed a new incentive. I felt important at Atletico, but I needed to play more. The teams are different. We have youth and Atletico have experience.
“Atletico play more in the wings. When you get more touches of the ball, you feel more grateful. They are both respectable ways.”
Garcia weighed up the current version of Atletico and said that when everything clicks with how Diego Simeone wants the team to be, they’re a hard team to contend with.
“That’s the consistency of these years. Tactically they work very well and the players adapt to what the Coach asks,” Garcia went on.
“When Atletico are well-oiled, they’re very difficult. Defensively they are very strong and they can score. Every team has a weakness and the Coach knows it. We’ll try to find what it is. I hope Atletico can fight for the title. They have the team for it.”