Matheus Cunha is one player expected to benefit most from a quiet summer in the Atlético Madrid offices. The Brazilian, a surprise signing last August, produced 10 goals (6 scored/4 assisted) in 1,063 league minutes — and he developed into a fan-favorite along the way, owing to his passion and attitude.
Accordingly, the expectations on Cunha have increased for this season, as he’s inherited Luis Suárez’s #9 shirt and will have a larger role. The 23-year-old is above Álvaro Morata in Diego Simeone’s pecking order. He scored in Atlético’s first preseason friendly at Numancia, and he got a start in Oslo against Manchester United over the weekend.
In an interview with Brazilian outlet Globo Esporte, Cunha admitted he has “a lot of affection” for that particular shirt and is very happy to wear the number that once belonged to players like Suárez, David Villa, and Fernando Torres.
“I’m sure we’ll have an excellent season, and on the pitch I hope to live up to all the trust the board and coaching staff have placed in me,” Cunha said. “It’s a great responsibility, but I feel extremely prepared.”
Cunha missed about six weeks last season with a knee injury, and his numbers in relatively-limited time would have been even better had he been available in February and March. He told GE about his off-pitch regimen, which includes working with his own physiotherapist and nutritionist. He said this off-pitch work — plus a full preseason program under Simeone — has him positioned for an even-better 2022/23 campaign tactically and technically, as well as physically.
“I’ve become an even-more complete player,” he said. “The intensity level in-game and in training is very high. We always work and train to the limit. It’s made me evolve.”
Cunha also expects Atlético to compete at the top of the table against reigning domestic and European champions Real Madrid, as well as a strengthened Barcelona side that figures to fight for multiple trophies after auctioning off chunks of future possible earnings to make several splashy signings this summer.
“As Atlético’s history shows, we have to approach the season with dedication and determination, leaving everything on the pitch,” Cunha said. “We have a strong squad and an excellent coaching staff that’s been here a long time.”
How to watch Cádiz CF vs. Atlético de Madrid in the Trofeo Ramón de Carranza match
Date Aug. 4, 2022
Location Estádio Nuevo Mirandilla, Cádiz, Andalucía, Spain
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CEST, 8:00 p.m. BST, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
Available TV/streaming fuboTV, TVE La 1, RTVE.es (Spain)