Luis Núñez-VillavearánSpecial Envoy Milan

Special Envoy Milan

Updated Monday, February 19, 2024-21:24

There are two people, the soccer coaches and the presenter of


, who know the usefulness of having a multipurpose tool under their belt.


has several.


, who defends you the same way as


, blocks your midfield or scores two goals for you and

Axel Witsel

(Liege, 1989).

The Belgian arrived at Atlético de Madrid as a proven and technical five for both

Borussia Dortmund

and the national team. Then


changed his scheme. "I had to start being more aggressive and

Cholo gave me a second career as a center back, before I had barely played two games for Dortmund,"


himself tells EL MUNDO


And it turns out that Cholo

liked that second life

, enough to be the most used field player at Atlético de Madrid with 2,861 minutes. Although it depends on when you read this, because the Belgian and


are moving forward depending on the game. "It is not a surprise that


is the player with the most minutes, he is an important footballer for us so it is normal."

The minutes, or rather the rest, is one of the controversies that the red and white coach has aired most this season.


, the player who rests the least, and even though he is 35 years old, relies on the strength of the "group" to overcome the marathon of games that have come to the red and whites after the Super Cup.

Of all of them, tomorrow may be one of the most important.


's dream

, the Champions League, which slipped through his fingers on two occasions and, what is worse, against his eternal rival. A dream that both the coach and the player do not allow themselves to express. The famous game by game, you know. "Go through against Inter and then we'll see what we can do," explains the Belgian.


is one of the biggest bones of this Champions League


In fact, the Italians have only lost one of their last 13 games in Europe's top competition and it was the most painful: the final against

Manchester City

last year. In Italy, they are also showing great form with nine wins in their previous ten games. "A great team," says Witsel.

Witsel, before the match against Las Palmas.Daniel GonzalezEFE

However, the Belgian has a "key" to have a good game this Tuesday in Milan: "If we put intensity like them, we will be able to have a great game." The intensity or aggressiveness that the red and white mentioned before is something non-negotiable with


, so despite the difficulty, he is not a bad scenario to face the Italians.

Despite the importance of the match,


is not stressed. He is a calm man and happy to be able to dedicate himself to what he does and to be where he is, in the round of 16 of a Champions League. "It was a big step because at my age I had no doubt that I had the quality to play for


, to help the team. But I am very happy to be there, yes," he comments.

End of race

And at 35 years old, he is already beginning to see that his years of career, 20 specifically, are beginning to run out. So his obsession is not in playing more or less or in facing better or worse rivals but in continuing to enjoy the sport that he chose when he was little. "It's a cycle that ends because you can't play as a professional all your life, but I'm not anxious. I want to take advantage of every day to train, play... Because time passes and it passes very quickly," says this footballer who fell in love of the ball by his father, a futsal player.

That good sense and that maturity and appreciation for what he has and for his family increased recently in one of the most bittersweet moments of his career. Shortly after the death of his grandmother,


scored his first goal as a red and white player. It was in the home game against


. "It wasn't a coincidence. I don't know, I think she gave me the strength, she helped me do that."