—A new season has just started and it feels like a great moment in your career after winning the Europa League with Atleti and capping it off with the World Cup win in Russia.
—Yes, it's true and it's fair to say I'm enjoying football at present at both club level and international level with great team-mates and managers. I feel privileged and hope that this carries on.
—Did you ever imagine when you left France for San Sebastián some thirteen years ago that this would be the path your career would take?
—My dream was always to win titles. The World Cup was always a boyhood dream and that was accentuated watching the team of 98 lift the trophy. When one arrives at a new club the desire is to win titles and when I arrived at Atlético my hope was the same and last season we secured the Europa League and just recently the UEFA Super Cup.
—There has been some recent controversy in the past weeks given that you were not shortlisted for 'The Best' award with may people claiming that this is an injustice. How has this been for you?
—There is nothing to be done, this is a FIFA award and it's a shame that no World Cup winner has been shortlisted. Our World Cup run was excellent and the likes of Mbappé, Varane, Kanté or even myself deserve to be recognised for the performances in Russia...However, that's how it is. I believe that the Ballon d'Or is more prestigious and has more cache, that's my view and I realise I have three months ahead to give my all and then we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
—But did it surprise you not to be on "The Best" nomination list this year?
—As I said, I'm not on the shortlist but no French players are. We had an excellent tournament in Russia and what else can I say. There is no looking back and one has to look ahead.
—You're a World Cup winner with France, have lifted both the Europa League and UEFA Super Cup trophy with Atlético, a big contrast to this time last year when things were different....
—I was pretty low. I don't know why but everything appeared bleak. I felt other people were to blame and didn't feel good. When I don't feel right off the pitch than that can impact on my play on the field. Thankfully, with the assistance of Cholo, my team-mates and especially Godín who I hang-out with a great deal and my wife...we managed to turn things around. Diego Costa's arrival also helped my playing and there was a dramatic improvement from January onward.
—The Diego Costa-Griezmann tandem is a dream attacking line for the bulk of Atlético fans...
—It's true and I still need to improve on following his off the ball movement. Still, I have no issues in us both getting on the score-sheet.
—Some observers now deem that you are the best player in the world. How do you see that?
—There are different ways to ses the game of football and it has to be said that I'm a different type of player compared to say Cristiano, Messi, Neymar or Mbappé. I'm performing well but still have room to improve and want to work on areas of my game. I'm never going to be a 50 goals per season type player but I still strive to be a sharper forward and want to help the team more too.
—Do you agree when I say it's not normal to see a player of your stature to make such a sacrifice for the rest of the team...
—Yes, but when the rest of your team-mates do it....that's the way Cholo has constructed this side. Everyone helps out and that's the ethos of the side. There may be a case when one is particularly tired and you may not have the legs to help out the defensive line but you will help out the midfield. Our fitness coach "Profe" Ortega has has us well drilled physically to have the stamina to assist in other areas of the pitch.
—You've said in the past that you would like to sit at the "top table" alongside the likes of Messi and Cristiano. do you feel you now sit there?
—Yes, I believe so. I know other players are emerging and I am conscious that I can improve my game too. This is a driving force for me, improve, win more and keep winning by playing in the manner we play.
—In the time we've been talking, you continually claim that you need to improve. How do you feel you can improve? What are these margins of improvement?
—By reading the game better, especially in an attacking dynamic. Improve my passing game. I know I can score more goals and be a better passer of the ball and help out more in defensive duties. It's a desire to improve and a thirst to work harder in order that drives me on.
—Let's move onto something that may be a little more complex for you to analyse. Some Atlético fans may feel that money was your principal motivation for staying at the club. Was that the key reason and what would you say to these supporters who share this view?
—I didn't stay at Atleti for that reason as money is not the most important driving force for me. I stayed at a place where I was greatly appreciated and loved by many...It pissed me off greatly what unfolded at the last game of the season at the Wanda Metropolitano (reference to the game when he was booed by a sector of the fans believing he was destined for a move to Barcelona) and I've seen the footage. I can also see this from the fans point of view as so much speculation was generated. I didn't speak in public on the matter as I wanted to concentrate on the season and the thing blew out of context. It was a learning lesson for me but if I wanted to earn more money, then China would have been my destination. I'm more than happy at Atlético. I have a coach who appreciates my work and a great bunch of team-mates too. I also count on the excellent Atleti supporters who were right behind me from the first day of the new season.
—One player who supported you amid this end of season confusion was Fernando Torres. What did he say to you when a section of the stadium was jeering you?
—Fernando told me to be calm and not to worry that here (at Atletico) I was deeply loved by the fans. His world of support were greatly welcome and on many occasions he offered world of advice which I'll always appreciate.
—Speaking of club legends such as "El Niño", you're about to spend your fifth season with Atleti. You must now feel that this is your club?
—Totally and it's something strongly felt by my daughter too. Put 10,000 club logos on the table and she´ll chose the Atleti badge. I feel very much at home here and I really enjoy life at the club. The way we won the World Cup in Russia was almost Atléti-esque too. I want to help in keeping the club at the top of the pile and want to help them grow on a global scale too.
—Let's focus on the unusual way you decided to stay at Atlético through the "La Decisión" documentary. Do you regret using that medium to convey your intention to stay at the club?
—No, I was aware that it would generate a range of feedback as it was something new. I wanted to convey the complexity of making such an important decision as I was making a decision that didn't involve just a year or two but something that would shape the future of my career.
—In the end, you turned down the chance of moving to Barcelona, and not get to play alongside the likes of Messi, Suarez etc. This is a big and brave decision and not one that most players would have made...
—This I also feel is a reflection on how great a club Atletico is and is a reflection on Cholo and the rest of the squad, if that wasn't the case I'd have been out the door. I have huge confidence in Simeone and the team. I want to help them improve and grow and this feeling is mutual. We've been through a great deal together and when things are going well, it's easier to see things through a positive perspective.
Source: AS / F.J. Díaz - Javier G. Matallanas