A play can reveal the state of well-being of a player. Last Sunday, the Metropolitan surrendered to Mario Hermoso (Madrid, 27 years old) in a complex ball outing. On top of several Almería players who were staggered in wait for him, he crossed the field wide shooting short walls with Koke until he was able to deliver the next pass that started Atlético’s attack. The red and white fans gave him a prolonged ovation for the beauty of a move that was not easy to execute.
Raised in the peripheral neighborhood of Concepción de los beehive-buildings that Pedro Almodóvar immortalized in ¿What have I done to deserve this?, Hermoso assures that he has not lost the essence of the neighborhood player of the small square and park that he was. “It is something that I will never lose, it is part of my life. I invite the children to play in the street and in the parks because they learn things that are not taught in the soccer academies that exist today. Playing with older and stronger people helps you find resources that your physique doesn’t give you when you’re younger, ”he warns.
Hermoso’s daring in releasing the ball has been one of the keys to the improvement in the game and in Atlético’s results after the World Cup break. It is not the first time that the defender has contributed to Simeone’s tactical catharsis. Placing him as the third central defender on the left was already decisive for Atlético to win the League two seasons ago. “My style has always been the same, what happens is that when things don’t go well, the errors stand out more and there is a lot of noise. Knowing what things you are doing well is what allows you to grow and get out of potholes. He had some things to correct, perhaps in anticipation, but I don’t agree that he was wrong with the ball, ”he defends. “I try to be true to myself, never give up my principles so that I can express everything that I have inside. I try to help the team grow by building the game from behind, but without forgetting the defensive aspect”.
This Sunday at the Camp Nou (4:15 p.m., Movistar LaLiga), the advanced pressure practiced by Barcelona will subject Hermoso and the Atlético midfielders to a delicate precision exercise to beat the Barça lines and be able to deploy the attacking game. “They put a lot of pressure on the opposite field, practically from midfield forwards, turning the duels into one-on-one for which we will have to find solutions.”
His irregular start to the season, the substitutions and his confrontation with the Atlético ultras for defending Antoine Griezmann generated a rarefied atmosphere around his figure. In December it was taken for granted that this summer he would leave Atlético. There was a point in which Simeone had it automated that, every time he saw a yellow card, he had to change it to avoid his expulsion. That emotional instability in the matches has given way to a footballer more focused on the game. “The family is an important point of support against the pressure we have. Also the fact of thinking that everything you do has an impact, because there are many children who look at you, leads me to try to avoid that anger in the field and at home”. In the worst moments of the season, Hermoso had the respect that Simeone has for his professionalism and for his work in training. “That discipline goes with my way of being.” Hermoso zealously takes care of his physique in the gym at his house, where he works out for an hour a day, and also what he eats. “Work outside of what you do at the club is important, both to be able to grow and to extend your career.”
Simeone also advised him, for example, to only anticipate when it was clear that he would win the duel and to take risks with the ball also when it was clear. The result is a central defender who has recovered the level that led him to the selection at the hands of Luis Enrique and to be included in the first pre-list of Luis de la Fuente. Four months after his future at the club was questioned, Hermoso’s agents will open negotiations with the rojiblanca leadership to seek an agreement that extends the contract that expires in June 2024.
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