Stefan Savić took time out from chilling with the homies to grant AS an interview, running in the paper’s Monday morning edition. In it, the veteran defender acknowledges and comments on the rumors starting to surround his teammate the Oblaktopus. He’s probably the right guy to ask about said rumors — dressing room reports indicate that Savić and Oblak are very close, and the club’s four-man Balkans contingent has often been seen hanging out together in some fashion.
“He has been here a year longer than me and he is the number 1 [goalkeeper] in the world, for me and for many,” Savić told AS’ Jesús Colino. “He is extremely important, on and off the field. We are very happy to have a great goalkeeper and a great teammate.”
Colino then mentions that Chelsea seem quite interested in bringing Oblak to west London (according to some, for less than his release clause).
“We have not spoken about it, those are subjects for the press,” Savić said. “It is normal — the best players are wanted by the best teams, it has happened before.
“Who doesn’t love Oblak? Everyone wants him for sure, but he is our goalkeeper, we are very happy that he is and I think he will continue with us in the future.”
Oblak rumors make me queasy. Goalkeepers like him come once or twice in a generation — and when you’ve got one, you have to pull out all the stops (no pun intended) to keep him. Barcelona have realized this with Marc-André Ter Stegen and reportedly have ramped up efforts to keep him happy at Camp Nou.
Atlético Madrid got Oblak’s renewal done and dusted last year, but his €120 million release clause isn’t totally prohibitive for the world’s richest — even in a coronavirus pandemic. Still, Chelsea will have to stump up this cash — Atlético will not negotiate and will not accept in return a goalkeeper whose value has sunk as sharply as Kepa Arrizabalaga’s.
The Blues will also have to make Atlético’s second captain their highest-paid player and convince him to swap situations that are pretty similar — Atleti and Chelsea are both clubs in transition, neither quite good enough yet to challenge for the title while playing in glitzy metropolitan areas with an annual presence in European competition via top-four finishes.
But Savić’s confidence is soothing. I’d like that to be the end of this.
Meanwhile, the Montenegro captain credited head trainer Profe Ortega — with whom he had a dressing room spat last season — with Atlético’s post-quarantine fitness.
“We worked very hard at home and we were responsible, always in contact with El Profe and [Diego Simeone],” Savić said. “When we returned we did not suffer, we have had very few injuries and that is because we did good physical work.”
The 29-year-old also discussed the upcoming Champions League quarterfinal against RB Leipzig — Atlético are due to return to training this week to start preparing for it.
“Leipzig are very tough, very physical and it will be important to be well-prepared physically.
“I think [the game] is evenly-matched,” Savić continued. “We know what the Champions League is like, but we don’t listen to what is being said outside. Leipzig eliminated Tottenham, a finalist last year. Those of us who follow football know that they are a good, intense team and that it will not be easy.”