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SAÚL ÑÍGUEZ

Saúl, who trained with Madrid, shone for Atleti against Bayern

Saúl Ñíguez was our man of the match in the Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern. In February, Saúl spoke about his happiness at Atlético and his time at Real Madrid.

Saúl, who trained with Madrid, shone for Atleti against Bayern
Sergio Perez REUTERS

Atlético Madrid's Saúl Ñíguez won our man of the match in the Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich, scoring the only goal of the game. Back in February he spoke ahead of the derby against Real Madrid, the club where he spent his formative years.

Regarding his time in Madrid's youth academy, he said: "I'm not hurt by what happened because it was a good experience in that I learned a lot of things, I matured a lot as a person". Saúl did however, mention the problems he suffered and the cause behind his departure from the club. "A lot of things happened off the field. The sporting side went well but some things happened which shouldn't happen to a kid of 11, 12 years of age. I had my boots stolen, my food, I was punished for something I didn't do and I wasn't allowed at the training ground in Valdebebas for two weeks... Someone wrote a letter, signing it with my name and sent it to the coach... I said that the letter wasn't from me because I had nothing to do with it".

Saúl Ñíguez celebrates his goal against Bayern.

At least Saúl has found happiness at Atlético: "Atleti is not just about the club crest, an emblem - it's all about the club's values: a way of living life. Humility, hard work, sacrifice, unity, the importance and strength of the team...". As for the team's chances of clinching the league, the player said, "We'll never give LaLiga up for lost; every game from now until the last day will be like a final to us and we'll try to win all of them". We've certainly seen that as the title race goes into the final few games and little to choose between the top three.

In a recent interview with AS, Saúl affirmed that: "If Atlético offered me a life-long contract, I'd sign it right now”, as a way of demonstrating his commitment to the Rojiblancos. As for the youth programme at Atleti, he added, "Atlético do things the right way with the youth team. For example, Gabi is 32 and has been at the club for a decade longer than players like Lucas, Óliver or myself. That means the the club has been doing a good job with the lower categories for a long time, not just now".

Let's see what his team can do in LaLiga and in the Champions League this year. He may have a chance to get back at some of his old Real Madrid academy chums in both competitions over the coming weeks.