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Atleti, one step away from the title in Koke’s 500 game

MADRID – Atlético, final to final for the league title, beat Real Sociedad 2-1 to distance Barcelona by four points and Real Madrid by five (with one game less). And his captain Jorge ‘Koke’ Resurrección, match by match, reached 500 as a footballer of the rojiblanca first team.

352 League games, 39 in the Copa del Rey, 73 in the Champions League, 29 in the Europa League, two in the European Super Cup and 5 in the Spanish Super Cup honor a career marked with seven titles, all of them from the ‘It was Simeone’ (two European Leagues, two European Super Cups, one League, one Cup and one Spanish Super Cup), and that could be eight if Atlético ends up winning this League.

“Proud of all, there are many years, many seasons, a lot of effort. I hope there will be many more, but I do not think individually, but collectively, I hope we can lift that title,” said the rojiblanco captain, still panting from effort, to ‘Movistar LaLiga’ as soon as the Wanda Metropolitano game ended.

He already has only one rojiblanco myth ahead: Adelardo Rodríguez, who played 553 games in 17 seasons and won ten titles (an Intercontinental Cup, a Recopa, three Leagues and five Cups). Koke has added his 500 in twelve campaigns, the result of a football era with more European matches.

Few could anticipate such a bright future when a 17-year-old Jorge Resurrección Merodio (Madrid, 1992) debuted with the first red and white jersey in September 2009 at the hands of Abel Resino. He did it in a posh setting, the Camp Nou to play the last 20 minutes of a bulky defeat (5-2), replacing Brazilian Paulo Assunçao.

At that time he was combining the first team with the Second Division subsidiary ‘B’, something he did the following season as well, despite accumulating 17 league games and two Cup matches, and in the 2011-12 campaign he was already a full member of the first team.

In the second half of that season, he met the coach who changed his destiny: Argentine Diego Pablo Simeone, who arrived midway through that season. He is the only footballer of the current squad who participated in the final of the first title of the Argentine era: the 2012 Europa League won against Athletic (3-0), in which he entered in the last minutes for the Brazilian Diego Ribas.

After that campaign, Málaga looked at his progression, offering him minutes. Simeone interceded: “I spoke with him, I had no way of showing him that it would be important because he had just arrived, but I was sure it would be. His talent, his dedication and his passion have led him to be key here and in the national team”, the Argentine coach recalled years later.

Time proved the coach right, because Koke became the watchword of the team that won a Copa del Rey at the Santiago Bernabéu the following year – on whose turf, that of the eternal rival, he spread and kissed a red and white flag – and in which he was a league champion and a finalist in the Champions League a year later.

Initially located as inside on the right or left wing depending on the needs of the team, as the seasons progressed, Koke focused his position as the pivots preferred by Simeone, such as Gabi Fernández, Rodrigo Hernández or Thomas Partey, left the team.

Until this campaign, the Vallecano has ended up playing as the only reference in the center of the rojiblanco team, sheltered inside by Marcos Llorente and the Frenchman Thomas Lemar, or failing that as Saúl Ñíguez tonight.

He did so this Wednesday, key vault of the 4-5-1 scheme with which Atlético, riding on an advanced and suffocating pressure, overwhelmed Real, which had its consequence in the 2-0 obtained by the goals of the Belgian Yannick Carrasco in minute 16 and Argentine Ángel Correa in 28, although he ended up suffering in the end, due to Igor Zubeldia’s goal in 83.

Leading the pressure on the rival midfielder, shouting at his teammates, stealing, acting as the preferred partner for any start of play, the captain signed a 500 game of physical and emotional waste. He is reaching the end of the season at his best, as he demonstrated at the Camp Nou against Barcelona (0-0), another of the ‘finals’ for the title that Atlético is contesting.

500 games that will be 502 if there are no setbacks in the two remaining duels of the season, and many more because a 29-year-old footballer is expected to have many seasons ahead. More so if, as is the case with Koke, his dream is to retire from rojiblanco.

“I have been athletic since I was little, I want to continue in the club and hopefully I can retire here,” Koke said in 2017, when he renewed until 2024. Then he wanted to be first captain, but for a long time since the bracelet has been in his power whenever he is in The grass. His future can mark an era and leave Adelardo’s record far behind. The captain gets to 500 and wants his second league.

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