An overcome Luis Suárez sat on the José Zorrilla pitch on Saturday, his eyes welling up with tears as he FaceTimed his family.
“It was difficult, the situation I had to live with, the way Barcelona looked down on me,” Suárez told Spanish TV. “Atlético opened their doors for me. Many people have suffered with me. My wife, my children, every day...this is the year that they have suffered the most from everything.”
Luis Suarez is crying in his post-match interview. He thanks Atletico Madrid for "offering me a door to keep proving that I'm good enough"— Richard Martin (@Rich9908) May 22, 2021
Earlier in the day, Suárez had scored the 67th minute goal which won LaLiga for Atlético Madrid — a most fitting end to a season-long revenge tour which saw him net 21 goals, one of just four players to score 20 or more this season.
Elsewhere, Yannick Carrasco chased Kieran Trippier around the pitch, brandishing a razor, trying to shave the Englishman’s head. Trippier — the first British player to win LaLiga with a club not named FC Barcelona or Real Madrid — said he wanted to hold off on his haircut until after Sunday’s trophy presentation at the Wanda Metropolitano. Carrasco eventually relented, though the colorful Belgian sported another new look at the ceremony.
Yannick belting out the club anthem on IG Live pic.twitter.com/XVujaN2eyM— LALIGA CHAMPIONS (@intothecalderon) May 23, 2021
Trippier may yet lose some hair, but that’s a function of Atlético not losing its one-time 10-point lead atop LaLiga. Despite a sense of “when, not if” Atleti would lose its imposing advantage as February turned to March then April, the colchoneros finished two points ahead of crosstown rivals Real Madrid.
“Many people did not believe in us when our lead atop the table was cut,” Koke told Movistar on Saturday. “But it’s normal (to react that way). We have completed a spectacular league season.”
Atlético certainly started spectacularly, with 16 wins from its first 19 games. The rojiblancos suffered spectacularly, too, and saw their lead trimmed to a single point in April. But Koke finished off a wonderful season (which saw him included in Luis Enrique’s Euro 2020 squad on Monday) by helping Atleti take 13 out of the last 15 points on offer to win the league. He missed only one game all season.
Atlético’s captain sought out Saúl for a big hug after the match as the academy duo celebrated another trophy together. LaLiga is Saúl’s first major domestic trophy with the club — he was on loan at Rayo Vallecano when Koke and the rest of the gang captured this title at Camp Nou in 2014.
“I think that Saúl and I have been around for so long, when things aren’t going well, it seems that people get tired of the same-old same-old,” Koke explained. “It’s a hug that says, ‘we’ve done it, we are here, we are going to continue working hard and fighting for Atlético.’ That hug means a lot.”
Ángel Correa was another long-serving colchonero soaking up the title win. Once a lynchpin for criticism, Correa found another gear late in the year and finished with 17 goal contributions (nine goals/eight assists) while playing every game for the champions. The 26-year-old scored a sensational toe-poke equalizer to jolt Atlético to life against Valladolid.
“I have been here for many years, and this has been the best season, the one in which I have played the most as a starter, but that is thanks to the work in previous years and the help of my teammates and the coaching staff,” Correa said. “They all trusted me.”
More revelations emerged from the Metropolitano after Atlético’s players returned there to hoist the trophy in an official capacity.
Euros-bound Marcos Llorente talked about the challenge the team faced in hanging on to the end, and José Giménez admitted that an early-season bout with COVID-19 left him physically exhausted. The center-back and third captain said he would stay, though, putting an end to recent rumors linking him with a transfer away from Atlético.
Suárez confirmed Sunday and Monday that he would return to fulfill the second year of his two-year contract — really, how could he leave after this — while João Félix also expressed his contentment and desire to win more titles in Madrid.
“We were in first for 30 (sic) matchdays and it would have been unfair had we not won the title,” Diego Simeone told Argentinian station Radio La Red 910. “(We had to) make a great effort in the end to win a very important title for our people.”
In a separate interview with ESPN Argentina, Simeone elaborated on the challenges this specific Atlético team faced, unique to the pandemic and markedly different from the 2014 league winners. He confirmed that 21 of his 23 players tested positive for coronavirus.
“The history of this club is based on effort, endurance, and that we are champions this year has more value,” Cholo said.
“I remember my words when I arrived, in 2011 — I want people to feel identified with the history of this club. Always fierce, counterattacking, letting collective work prevail. At the farewell to the Calderón (in 2017), I had to speak, and people did not know if I was staying or leaving. I said I was staying and I said why, because I understood that there was a (bright) future.
“Before, we were (LaLiga) champions every 25 years, then we cut it down to 18 years (between titles), and now we are at seven years. It makes us happy, there is a lot of work behind the scenes, people who aren’t front-facing but who work every day fighting and looking for solutions.”