An important part of Diego Simeone's record-breaking Club Atlético de Madrid team, midfielder Jorge Resurrección – aka Koke – continues to impress at club and international levels and recently told UEFA.com he wants to seal a memorable campaign with some silverware.
Ever-present in the UEFA Europa League holders' drive towards the round of 32, the Atlético academy product regrets the failure to advance as group winners – they finished behind FC Viktoria Plzeň – but insists the Rojiblancos can retain the trophy won in Bucharest last May.
"It was a pity we didn't get through our group in top spot – that was our intention – but we put in a lot of work and achieved our goal of reaching the next phase," explained the Madrid-born player, a late substitute in last season's final against Athletic Club. "We hope to reach the final and win it again."
A tie against Russia's FC Rubin Kazan is next for Atlético, with the first leg at the Vicente Calderón on 14 February, and with the return trip a week later proving particularly intriguing for Koke. "Playing in Europe is great, especially travelling to other countries to face different opposition," the 21-year-old said. "This season we have taken things game-by-game, no matter who we have played in the competition. We know success will be difficult to achieve, but it's not impossible."
Although their record 16-game winning streak in Europe ended at A. Académica de Coimbra in November, UEFA Super Cup holders Atlético maintain a 100% home record in all competitions this term and the Liga's second-placed side recently set a new club milestone of ten straight matches without conceding at the Calderón.
Part of that, of course, is down to Koke – an aggressive, strong and quick midfielder whose footballing intelligence and set-piece prowess fit perfectly the team molded by Argentinian coach Simeone.
"We are having a spectacular campaign, and taking things day by day is working for us," said the veteran of 62 Liga appearances. "[Simeone's rotation policy] is great as it keeps everyone switched on, nobody can relax. We know that at any given moment any player can come in and as a group it's important to realise there will be playing time for everybody."
Hoping to get on the pitch at this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Israel, Koke – who scored once in five qualifiers, having previously represented his country at U17, U19, U20 and U23 levels – believes he must still convince coach Julen Lopetegui he merits a place in the squad.
"It's true I have been called up many times but I have to keep working and see what happens," he said. "I feel I have a lot to offer and I can play the quick one-touch football they teach us in all the Spanish youth categories. I think we have a great team and they are clear candidates for the title."
As for the day job, Koke reckons that catching "perhaps the best FC Barcelona team of all time will be difficult" given the Catalans' eight-point lead. If not the title itself, then "to qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League and finish as high in the table as possible" would suffice – along with "winning the UEFA Europa League or Copa del Rey" in May. See, the boy has standards.
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