Germán 'Mono' Burgos gave a glimpse into his day to day working relationship with Diego Simeone in an interview published in today's Papel Sunday supplement. The Atlético assistant coach spoke openly about his reaction to hearing the bombshell that he had been diagnosed with cancer. With Simeone, his function is to keep the coach completely informed and free of any doubts or anxieties.
Burgos defines his relationship with Simeone in simple terms - it is one based on trust: "If one of us loses our temper, the other will put up with it until it fizzles out... [laughs] You know, both of us have very strong characters, but my job is to make sure he remains balanced. With just one look I can tell what he is going to say - I know when he's worried about something and he's the same with me. If he has any doubts or anxieties, I try to free him of them. I'm never in any doubt- never. When you are presented with the truth, there is no need to doubt and my role is to tell him the truth always - this one can play, he can play and he can play and he trusts my judgement. The roles of coaches and their assistants is a bit like those double acts in classic films - like Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci...".
Atlético is a different club, says Burgos
El Mono feels that being an Atlético supporter is something special. "There are many things which make this club different to the rest. It always reminded me a little of Racing Club de Avellaneda - one of the great clubs which dropped a division - fallen giants... I started to understand what Atleti was all about when I was playing for Mallorca. I watched them playing Leganés in their first season in the Second Division. I couldn't believe it when I saw the fans descending on Butarque in droves - it was really incredible. It gave me goosebumps then and the thought of it still does. I was watching the game on TV and thought to myself: "I want to play there!!!"... Our fans get behind the team and encourage them even when they are losing. I've been to grounds where the supporters chant [adopts mocking tone]: 'Hello north stand... Hello south stand...". And I am like: 'Ok, here we go...'. As soon as their team goes a goal down, who is going to get behind their team then?"
Mono Burgos on how he got his nickname
The former keeper explained how he acquired his nickname: "My friends called me 'big head' - they said you could fit a whole NASA computer inside my skull. It was [Argentine coach, Carlos] Griguol who started calling me 'Gorilla'. He turned to me and said: 'You're like a big gorilla' and from that it evolved in 'Mono' (Monkey in English)".
Among his most painful memories are the two Champions League final defeats to Real Madrid. "Which one hurt the most - Lisbon or Milan? Both... both of them hurt. But it's the same effect as when you win only in reverse - in my case, the aftereffects don't last - they're gone in a flash. In Lisbon after the goal on 93 minutes, I said something very important to Cholo. Something was has been important from that point on... I'm not one for talking after matches. I try to keep quiet, to remain unaltered and then I'm off home. But that day I said something to Simeone. The game went into extra-time. It was 1-1 and it wasn't over. I need a pessimist next to me to live my life [laughs], I am a natural-born optimist. I'm not the kind who lets their emotions take over because of certain moves. I am always thinking, taking notes, I cannot do that if my emotions get in the way. El Cholo has a way of living football and expressing himself - he'll leap up, kick things, he'll whip up the atmosphere and get the crowd going.... I have to compliment that, the archer needs to remain cool and calm, do you know what I mean?".
Mono Burgo talks about beating cancer in 2003
In 2003, medical staff detected a tumour on his kidney. Burgos takes up the story: "The other day a lady reminded me of what I said to her when she was diagnosed with the illness. I simply said to her: 'Whatever you do, don't shit yourself, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are going to beat it'. That lady is fine now, she's in the clear and she's got her hair back and everything... A lot of people who have cancer come to me. People want hope. It's not easy when you are there, in hospital with a white gown on. And when they are taking you down to the operating theatre and you see all the lights, and the anaesthetist turns to you, like he did to me and says: 'the surgeon who is going to perform the operation is a Real Madrid fan...'. That's tough, very tough. But fear? No, totally the opposite. Once I discharged myself from the CEMTRO Clinic, I hadn't recovered and I was still connected to a drip. One of the lads, in the corridor, said to me: 'I'd be very grateful if you could go and see my dad, he hasn't got long left now - it's a question of hours, he's an Atlético de Madrid fan, if you could just say something to him. So I went, I sat with him and we spent a while just talking. It's in those moments when you feel you are somebody".