Koke, a captain for history

The vallecano dreams of lifting the first Champions League for Atlético. It is the fourth with the most games at the club, in one year it will be the second and in two it could be the most.


Atlético only have the Champions on their heads. The possibility of fighting for the European title in a completely atypical year, with the qualifiers from the quarterfinals to a match and with the side of the rojiblanco team apparently clearer, with teams of lesser name and honors that those who will play for the other way, the hopes of the hobby increase.

Yes, the team does not want the least confidence towards any rival and knows that any relaxation against Leipzig will mean elimination, since there is no margin for error. It must be remembered that if Liverpool, the third team with the most titles in the history of the competition (6) and current champion of the Champions League, are not in the tournament, it is because Atlético eliminated them in the second round just before the health pandemic of coronavirus paralyzed the world in a tie for memory.

And if there is a player who combines the excitement for the tournament and caution before what comes next, it is Koke. The mattress captain could be the first captain in the history of the club to lift the trophy and a lot of the hopes of Simeone's will depend on his level. The vallecano is capital for Cholo and returned from the break in a great state of form, being decisive near the rival goal. His goal against Real Sociedad, after a great combinatorial play with the participation of Herrera, Costa, Trippier and Morata, which left a great heel before Koke's definition, certified the third mattress place and a new podium, the eighth consecutive with Simeone on the bench.

In two years he could surpass Adelardo

In that match, the midfielder also reached 456 games with the Atlético first team, the only one he has played in throughout his career. The number with which Aguilera said goodbye to the club and which places Koke, at 28, as the fourth player with the most games in the history of Atletico. Since Simeone's arrival on the mattress bench, Koke has averaged 48 games per season (he reached 58 in 2013-14), and he's only missing on the pitch when he suffers from muscle problems or has to meet a penalty match. Some absences in which his role is most noticeable, where in this course he has lost six league games (two wins, two draws and two defeats), one of the Cup in which Atlético was eliminated by Cultural and one in the Spanish Super Cup, falling on penalties against Real Madrid after he had relapsed from his injury in the semifinals where he scored Barça. If he maintains that participation rate, in a few months he will have surpassed Collar (470) and Tomás (483) and in two years he will be able to catch up with Adelardo (553) as the player with the most games in Atlético's history (he is already the one with the most European competitions with 95 matches, 15 more than Godín, his first pursuer).

Since Cholo began directing his career (40 games in the 2011-12 season), avoiding that any exit could be considered when Malaga pressed to take over his services, it has been his connection between midfield and the front, becoming in the league's most assisted midfielder of the decade. Despite the fact that his presence in the final meters has gone down, with his best version between 2013 and 2016, getting 13 assists in the League title season (2013-14) and 16 in the campaign (2015-16), he continues as a vital player in Atlético's scheme and when he is fine he speeds up the game a lot and gives another rhythm to a team that has a hard time breaking lines while standing still.

Koke already knows what it is to lose two Champions League finals cruelly on the pitch, something that makes him cautious. But it is impossible not to have the illusion of fighting again until the end for that trophy that has slipped three times and that would be the best farewell for Mono Burgos, honored with the '6' in front in that last league match. The Champions League is three wins away, it is the message that invades the locker room and, in the event of achieving success at last, it would be the award for perseverance. A title that the vallecano dreams of lifting, not only for him, but also for the Gabi, Godín, Fernando Torres, Juanfran, Filipe, Raúl García and the rest of his teammates who stayed on the road.

Photos from as.com
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