Atletico Madrid defender Mario Hermoso had a similar trajectory to Los Colchoneros last season. Questioned by the fans, failing to meet expectations, and in Hermoso’s case fully expected to move on last summer, he has since become a key part of the side. Hermoso has operated on the left side of a three or in the centre throughout much of 2023, providing a cleaner supply line to the midfield as he did in their title-winning season.
During a recent interview with Diario AS, he was asked how he managed to change Diego Simeone’s mind from having him almost in exile from the team, to becoming a key part of the side again.
“By working and making him see that I can be useful in many aspects of the game that the group needs. Football evolves, the teams are increasingly even, and the more leaps in quality we make, physically, tactically, in understanding the game… the team grows more and is better. What is most difficult is the mentality, wanting to win day after day. There are great footballers on all the teams and what makes the difference is that, that what you did the day before is never worth it.”
🎙️| Saúl Ñíguez: “I've never had a bad dressing room at Atlético de Madrid, and that's what has allowed the team to compete for everything in recent years. First comes the dressing room, then the synergy with the coach, with the fans.”
— Atletico Universe (@atletiuniverse) November 23, 2023
Stefan Savic and Jose Maria Gimenez are strong defenders first and foremost, but Hermoso gives Simeone a different dimension to work with.
“It’s about creating situations and helping with that first release of the ball, positioning myself as a low full-back; then being able to join as if it were a double pivot with Koke to generate superiority. There are times when I have had to play as a full-back on the outside and try to unfold… These are situations that the game demands of you, the characteristics of the rest of the players and interpreting how to occupy spaces and for the team to be well organised if you lose it. Communication is essential.”
Hermoso is one of several that are out of contract next summer though, including captain Koke Resurreccion.
“I’m calm. What interests me is continuing to grow, that Atletico continues as we have since this post-World Cup, which has seen a different team, with more victories. We are on a very good run at home. We are fulfilling objectives and growing. You see a more solid team, which can compete with the biggest teams toe-to-toe.”
“The renewal, today, is not something that worries me, I’m being honest with you. I feel that when I have to get things done, they will arrive. I don’t know how. I’m enjoying myself with my friends, I have a very good relationship with many people, we are great friends, we spend time every day with the team and also away from football. When it is said that Atleti is a family club, with so much feeling, it is reality. You feel something different, and you see it as your home.”
Hermoso was asked what his sense of the situation was as things stood.
“I don’t know. There are many things that have to happen, it is not just my decision, it’s also to do with other people. There are opportunities that will be available on the market, not only in my case, but also at the club to be able to sign another player. If I had a crystal ball… I wouldn’t be playing football (laughs). These are situations that have yet to come, and if they do, it’s about facing them in the best way possible. I’ll be here happy until the day I leave, I feel like I’ve given everything since I got to Atleti, and that will never be in doubt. And if I continue, it will be the same as these five years, with dedication, with the desire to grow, to work and to help my teammates who arrive to see what Atletico Madrid is and to feel what he have done in the past.”
While it is impossible to tell, and Los Rojiblancos have just secured the future of Diego Simeone until 2027, it sounds as if neither Koke nor Hermoso have been contacted over new contract talks as of yet. Axel Witsel, Savic, Ivo Grbic and Cesar Azpilicueta are the other players who are out of contract – Alvaro Morata’s renewal has not been publicly announced, but he is believed to have extended his deal.