Koke: History, not revenge motivating Atletico
Koke is focused on creating history by helping Atletico Madrid to their first Champions League triumph, not gaining revenge over Real Madrid.
Atletico were moments away from claiming the European trophy for the first time in 2014, but Sergio Ramos’ 93rd-minute goal forced extra time, where Madrid went on to secure a 10th top continental crown by winning 4-1 in Lisbon.
The only previous appearance in the final for Atletico also ended in defeat to Bayern Munich in 1974, the Germans triumphing 4-0 in a replay.
Saturday’s match against Madrid at San Siro is the only thing standing between the club and a maiden Champions League triumph, and Koke believes that will be their greatest motivation.
“It’s a new, great, wonderful opportunity. Revenge isn’t on our minds because no one can go back in time and give us back the Lisbon final,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We just want to create history by winning the first Champions League for the club.
“Statistics are there to be broken and to change. Our goal is to come back with the cup.”
Coach Diego Simeone has led Atletico into their second Champions League final in three seasons, changing the atmosphere at the Vicente Calderon.
“He changed our mentality – of all the players, but above all, the club. There was so much pessimism,” said Koke.
“The last few years were not great and it had generated doubts and insecurity. Simeone convinced us that we were good players and the club that could aspire to anything.
“He started with the ‘game by game’, play each match like it’s a final. Everyone at Atletico believed in the coach, he believed in us and that brought us to where we are.
“We never lower our guard, intensity or hunger for victory in every game including friendlies. We always train hard and have a winning mentality.”
Simeone has frequently been linked to jobs elsewhere in Europe and has spoken of his desire to coach his former club Inter in the future.
But Koke is not worried about the Argentinian leaving as it is part of a natural process.
“I’m not afraid [of Simeone leaving]. He is happy here, he has a long contract, but nothing is everlasting,” he added.
“There will be a time when Simeone leaves, when I leave, when Fernando [Torres] leaves. That’s life. We only hope that it is as long as possible.”