Close friendships and national ties will mean nothing once Sunday’s top of LaLiga clash between Barcelona and Atlético Madrid begins, according to former Atlético forward Diego Forlan.
At least eight of the 22 starters at the Camp Nou will be South Americans, including stars from LaLiga ambassador Forlan’s home country of Uruguay, plus neighbors Argentina and Brazil.
International colleagues will chat and joke before and afterwards, but once the play starts things get serious, says Forlan, who scored 96 goals in 198 games for Atlético from 2007-11.
“Personally, I play my game and I want to win,” Forlan says. “Then after the game you are friends again. Obviously it is difficult to get into an argument with your international teammate. But it depends on what happens in the play, and each player’s personality.”
On Sunday, Argentina captain Lionel Messi of Barcelona faces his fellow Rosario-born forward Angel Correa of Atlético Madrid, whose coach is Buenos Aires’ native Diego Simeone. Three Uruguayans feature – with Barca’s center-forward Luis Suarez up against Atlético defenders Diego Forlan and Jose Maria Gimenez. Plus four Brazilians – in new Barça midfielders Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho, versus Atlético left-back Filipe Luis and Brazil-born Spain international Diego Costa. Barca’s new Colombian defender Jerry Mina is likely to start on the bench.
Forlan knows from experience what happens in these cases, having played against his Uruguay teammate Martin Caceres in Atlético v Barça clashes during the 2008/09 LaLiga season.
“There are usually messages exchanged, depending on the type of friendship,” he says. “In this case for sure they will be writing to each other. With Martin we talked before and after the game. But once on the pitch we were both focused on our own game. These matches are the nicest ones to play. I really enjoyed facing Barcelona and Real Madrid. Although we suffered more at the Camp Nou.”
Forlan is currently at Hong Kong side Kitchee, with Mumbai City, Cerezo Osaka, Brazilian club Internacional, Penarol of Montevideo, LaLiga’s Villarreal, Manchester United and Argentine side Independiente on his long and impressive CV.
The 38 year old is sure Sunday’s game, in which second placed Atlético aim to cut the gap to leaders Barça, will be followed by LaLiga fans everywhere.
“Thanks to globalization these games are now very important all over the world,” he says. “Some kids now follow a team from a place they have never been to, but get to know. Things have changed.”