There was (and still is) a palpable amount of shock and sadness in the immediate aftermath of Atlético Madrid's Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid. For the second time in three years, Atlético's crosstown rivals had won the European Cup in heartbreaking fashion at los rojiblancos' expense. The post-match images were powerful - Yannick Carrasco with his arms behind his head in disbelief, Diego Godín comforting Gabi and Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres' tears.
But no image was more powerful than that of Juanfran begging for forgiveness from the traveling Atlético support. The 31-year-old set up his side's only goal but missed his penalty in the shootout, which set up Cristiano Ronaldo's winning pen (and the removal of his shirt, once again. UEFA should just let the guy play without one, he clearly has no regard for it). Anyway, Juanfran's reaction touched supporters' hearts, and on Monday morning he endeared himself further to Atleti fans when this letter appeared on the club website.
The full text is as follows:
I have asked the club to address all of you with this letter to tell you everything I feel.
I will never forget your displays of affection when I came to ask for your forgiveness. Seeing my tears reflected in the faces of the thousands of Atléticos that packed that end of the stadium helped me cope with the tremendous sadness I felt in those hard times. As well as the support of my teammates, coaches, and all the people that makes this big family.
I also want to thank you for always believing in us and, above all, for proving that being an Atlético is something very special, different, and that our heart beats stronger than any other.
Two years ago, I told you that we would return to a final, now, I tell you that Gabi, our captain, will lift the Champions League sooner or later, and we will celebrate it all together in Neptuno.
I love you very much and GO ATLETI.
Well, there you go. Juanfran is insistent that Saturday's game was far from the end for this Atlético team and the hard work will continue to ensure Gabi raises the European Cup. Whether that happens in Cardiff next year or not - the last team to make three Champions League finals in four years was Bayern Munich in in 2010, 2012 and 2013 - remains to be seen, but Juanfran's sentiments are shared by the team: keep the faith, don't stop believing, trust in hard work.