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Kieran Trippier delivering for Atlético Madrid and relishing new 100mph life | Sid Lowe | Football


Kieran Trippier took a step back, avoiding the red and white flowers at the south-east corner of the ground, laid there by Margarita Luengo as they have been before every home game since 1996, and then delivered another invitation. Atlético Madrid were into the 90th minute and losing 2-1. As the ball arrived, curling into the area, Héctor Herrera jumped to head it in and the place exploded. Diego Simeone skidded to his knees on one side; on the other, players piled on. As they broke, the Englishman clenched his fists, roaring. They had trailed 2-0 to Juventus – not just any team: Juventus – but now, on his first European night, they were level.

“We didn’t stop, we didn’t change, we kept on going, we always believed,” Trippier said. “It shows great mentality to pull it back against a fantastic team. Since I came here, the mentality of the group, the coaching staff, Cholo [Simeone]: it’s immense. In training it’s 100 miles an hour, never stop, and we do the exact same in games. When we went 2-0 down we knew we’d get opportunities. We kept on going and going. And the crowd were fantastic as well – I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

His first Champions League experience as an Atlético player had ended better than his last for Spurs, in this same stadium three month earlier, but it might not have done: there was still time for a scare when, in the 95th Cristiano Ronaldo escaped and flashed a shot inches past the post that could have won it. “Everybody knows how good Ronaldo is,” Trippier said. “You check your shoulder and then you check your shoulder again and he’s not there.” But by the time he spoke, wearing a smile, Atlético’s comeback was complete and his time in Spain has been a striking success.

He has found a house, 8km from the training ground, he’s taking Spanish lessons three times a week, his son is starting nursery, and the fans have been won over fast. Gareth Southgate has been out to see him, starting at Leganés before the last international break. Happy to see a player in a new environment, the England manager will be back too.

It has also broken with the cliches. Trippier heard it said he would never cross the halfway line, but he knew better and he has been integral to Atlético’s play, sought early and often. Here, he was pressed very high and very wide – one average position graphic for the period between the 15th and 30th minutes shows him partly off the pitch – and he attempted more passes than anyone. It has been a feature of his first month here, the touch and technique impressing.



Kieran Trippier says he has learned a lot working under Diego Simeone, right. Photograph: Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Trippier talks eloquently of a structure clearly on display against Juventus, even if he was self-critical. “In the first half I thought we did very well; we had a lot of chances, especially from wide areas,” he said. “Personally, I could have done a lot better. They’re very strong in the air and I could have just cut some back [instead of crossing].”

The defensive work is improving too. It had to, he admits, which is part of the reason he came. “It’s very different here, especially defensively,” he said. “I had said many times before I came that I needed to improve my defending. And there’s no better person to work under [than Simeone]. In the first training session, [assistant coach Germán Burgos] was following me around, explaining in English where he wanted me to be. If you see in games sometimes, when [Renan] Lodi’s got the ball, he wants me to tuck in, basically like a midfielder at times. It’s all about learning, about how to play.

“You see today with Thomas and Koke, I have got the licence to go forward. If we lose the ball, in the transition Thomas and Koke can slot into the right-back position and I have to get back as quick as possible. But you need to pick the right moments to go forward because with teams like Juventus, if I am too high and wide [it would be] like sometimes last season with Tottenham [when] I was getting exposed because I was too high. Then when we lose possession, I’m out of the picture. It’s about choosing the right moment.

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“On the training field I’m learning so much. I had a really good pre-season. I feel like I’m picking up very quickly what the team expects from me, going forward and defensively. I’m aware of what they want from me and I’m just trying to deliver it.”

In the 90th minute of his first European night with Atlético Madrid, he did exactly that.





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