Kieran Trippier celebrates with his Atletico Madrid team-mates Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata
It is six months since Kieran Trippier swapped north London for Madrid, but the defender has not looked back.
The England international made the switch from Tottenham to Atletico Madrid in the summer and feels he is improving as a player under Diego Simeone – the manager he believes is the best in the world.
In a wide-ranging interview with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily, the 29-year-old full-back spoke about life in a new country, his relationship with the boss he calls ‘Mister’ and the prospect of facing Liverpool in the Champions League.
‘Even the groundsman gives you a big hug in Madrid’
Trippier made the switch to Atletico Madrid in a £20m move from Tottenham last summer, signing a three-year contract with the Spanish club.
“It’s been amazing. My wife and two children are the most important thing to me, and also to make sure we found a place for them and for them to feel settled – and they have done, it’s made my life a lot easier.
“My Spanish is coming on. I understand a lot more than I can speak. I’ve got the right people around me who are helping me and the staff have been fantastic. It’s not going to be like a day to learn it, it’s going to be a process, but I’m excited.
“From day one in pre-season, to see how welcoming everybody is – the players, the staff – I knew straight away I would love it here. It’s just so connected, which is the most important thing to me.
“It is different. Being here, you can see how close everyone is, the staff with the players. Even the groundsman and security give you big hugs when you come in. Sometimes in England, I don’t think you have that.
“For the players who are not playing, you don’t see anyone disappointed here. In England, sometimes if a player is not playing, they can be angry – everyone wants to get picked – but here, it just shows how good the man-management is as everyone is laughing and joking and you don’t see anyone disappointed.”
Simeone played for Atletico in an impressive career that also saw him represent Argentina 106 times
‘I call Simeone “Mister” – they don’t know gaffer!’
Atletico have been extremely successful under Simeone, who has led them to a La Liga title, one Copa del Rey success and two Europa League wins since 2011.
“It can be difficult [to understand each other]; he does try to say little words in English. On the pitch it’s not a problem, though. I know what he demands of his players. I know what he needs and expects from the team.
“I think everybody knows how good he is, how passionate he is when he is on the touchline and when he’s in training. He’s unbelievable and I’ve got this opportunity to learn from him.
“You always see him with an arm around the young lads. When you see him fired up it gives you a lift and it just shows how passionate he is.
“I call him ‘Mister’ which is the Spanish for ‘boss’. I have to tell people [what I mean] when I call him ‘gaffer’. It’s so different.
“Is Simeone the best manager in the world now? For me, personally, yes. When people actually play for him they realise how good he is.
“Obviously you’ve got some good managers: Klopp, Guardiola… Sean Dyche! You’ve got quality managers out there but he’s certainly up there for sure.
“[Burnley boss] Sean Dyche is a brilliant manager. From the first day he walked in [Trippier played for Burnley from 2011-2015, initially on loan] he sorted my career out basically.
“From when I was young, stupid and going out, he just sat me down and said ‘no more’. Unbelievable manager and I loved playing for him and, who knows, one day I might get the opportunity to play for him again.”
‘I can improve on my defending’
“In the Premier League, I was too eager to get forward. I feel like here, my understanding of when to go forward, when to defend, my positioning, has been helped a lot.
“Obviously I can improve on my defending, which I need to do, and there’s no better place, no better club to put in the defensive work.
“It starts on the training field. Tactically the manager works with you individually and, for me, man-management is the most important thing and I think he’s unbelievable at that.”
‘Klopp has done a great job at Liverpool’
Liverpool won the Champions League last season and are 16 points clear in this season’s Premier League
Atletico face holders Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League, with the first leg at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Tuesday 18 February, followed three weeks later by the second leg at Anfield.
“Playing here has given me a good opportunity to watch nearly every single game in the Premier League and I’ve watched Liverpool a lot and seen for the last two and a half years how good they’ve been.
“The players they have brought in, the manager, you see how they have developed, they have been fantastic and made two Champions League finals.
“This season has been fantastic and to be that far ahead in the Premier League, with how intense the Premier League is, it just shows what a good job Jurgen Klopp has done.”