Diego Simeone has backed Joao Felix to thrive at Atletico Madrid as “the talk of our team” ahead of Wednesday’s crunch Champions League clash with Chelsea.
Atletico boss Simeone confirmed Portugal star Felix will start the last-16 second leg encounter at Stamford Bridge, with the Spaniards trailing the Blues 1-0.
Felix toasted his goal in Atletico’s 2-0 win over Villareal by putting his finger to his lips and shouting in Simeone’s direction.
But both manager and player insist there are no rifts at Atletico, ahead of the finely-balanced tie in west London.
“Joao, as we have always mentioned, is a really important player,” said Simeone.
“Joao is going to play from the beginning. He has had a really high-quality start to the season. He is the talk of our team and we need this player.
“All footballers have different stages throughout their professional career, especially when they are young, where they dip.
“But as you heard from him there is nothing more needed from his personality.
“Ahead of the Champions League and LaLiga matches, we have to ensure that as a 21-year-old that he has that will that he needs to have to reach the point where he needs to be.”
Atletico signed Felix from Benfica for 126million euros in June 2019, but his adjustment to life in Spain has not been without its bumps.
Felix continues to maintain he is happy at Atletico, however, and insisted he has no troubles defending as part of Simeone’s demanding tactical system.
“I am happy here, my family is fine, I am fine; I am fine with the club and as players there are moments that are not so good but they can be overcome,” said Felix.
“Ever since I was at Benfica and ever since I’ve been with the national team, I have to defend and I have to attack as well.
“That’s what I need to do here too. Without attitude, talent is not good enough.
“My relationship with the manager is good, he always tries to help me, as normal. We need to help each other.”