Joao Felix promised he has much more to offer Atletico Madrid after marking his first LaLiga start of 2021 with a goal and an assist against Valencia.
Sunday’s 3-1 victory saw Joao Felix both score and create a goal for the third time in a game this season, more than any other Atleti player.
But the other standout displays from the club’s record signing had come in the early weeks of the campaign.
Between the November international break and this clash at the Wanda Metropolitano, Joao Felix netted just once in all competitions, also supplying a single assist.
That underwhelming stretch saw the Portugal forward lose his place in the league XI, but a tight turnaround from Thursday’s win at Eibar provided an opportunity he duly grasped.
Joao Felix cancelled out Uros Racic’s spectacular Valencia opener with a smart finish ahead of Thierry Correia, before his second-half pass set Luis Suarez away to score the second. Angel Correa, who replaced Joao Felix, completed the scoring.
A return to form gave Joao Felix the opportunity to discuss his recent trials, although there are no hard feelings towards coach Diego Simeone.
“I can give so much more,” said the 21-year-old, who played 62 minutes. “No footballer likes being on the bench, but it also happened to me at Benfica.
“I know what I am capable of and, when the coach chooses me to play, I have to do my best. I am calm. Cholo [Simeone] does what is best for the team.”
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 24, 2021
Atleti president Enrique Cerezo was asked by Movistar for his take on Joao Felix’s rollercoaster season.
“No-one doubts that Joao Felix is a great player,” he replied. “If the coach decides to change him, it will be for some reason.
“But he does not have to get angry or upset, like everyone else. Neither the players, the coach nor the fans want to lose, and when you lose, you get mad.”
There has been nothing inconsistent about the form of Suarez, who has 12 goals in his first 15 LaLiga games for Atleti, the best start to life at a new club by any player in Spain’s top flight since Cristiano Ronaldo netted 13 in 15 matches for Real Madrid in 2009-10.
Joao Felix described Suarez as “lethal”, while Cerezo sees the veteran’s sensational form as justification of their pursuit of the former Barcelona striker.
“We have always thought that Luis Suarez was the best centre-forward in Europe,” he said. “We are lucky that he is with us. Everyone is happy.”
Seven straight wins have moved Atleti seven points clear of rivals Madrid and they still have a game in hand, but Cerezo is not getting carried away.
“You can lose [the title] or you can win it,” he said. “We are in the middle of the season and there is a lot left. We are first but there is a lot left.
“When there are three games left, I’ll tell you if we are champions. The team is doing very well and the players know very well what they have to do: score goals and win games.”