Saúl Ñíguez has had an eventful year. He started out as a second choice midfielder, behind Tiago Mendes, and looking for any opportunity to showcase his talent. The 21-year-old played just 26 minutes of Atletico's opening four games but an injury to Tiago meant Saul was thrust into the spotlight; he has been immense ever since.
Since replacing the Portuguese stalwart, Saúl has made himself indispensable in Cholo's starting XI and attracted interest from Manchester United during the January transfer window. In an interview with AS recently (translated thanks to the IBTimes) he has stated his desire to stay at the Vicente Calderon until his legs can no longer transport him around the field.
The Spanish midfielder said, "I have been here half of my life. It would be very nice [to hang my boots up at Atletico Madrid]. I would like to stay here forever. Atletico have given me everything. It's my club, my home. If I was offered a lifetime contract I would be happy to play here until my legs gave up. I am eager to repay them for the trust they have put in me.
"I have fulfilled a dream I had since I was a kid, when I arrived to the youth ranks at Cadete B. The daily effort is the best way to thank the club for what they have given me. Atletico gave me a chance, they took care of me and showed me their values, which is the greatest thing about this club. I can just keep working to grow."
Saúl showed his maturity again on Saturday when, after making a mistake that gave Eibar the lead, he headed home from a Koke cross to give his side the lead in what could prove to be a pivotal moment of their season. With no less than three regular starters out injured and suspended, Diego Simeone was forced to play an untested back four that included Jesus Gamez, Jose Gimenez, Saul Niguez and Lucas Hernandez. It is what has come to be expected of Saúl as he anchored the defense in a position he is foreign to while making sure he contributed when his sides' backs were to the wall.
The versatile youngster will continue to garner attention and he could leave one day but rarely does a footballer so emphatically state his desire to stay at a club!