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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Paul O'Hehir

Matt Doherty keen to earn long-term Atletico Madrid deal

Matt Doherty admits the pressure is on as he looks to win a longer contract at Atletico Madrid.

The Ireland star completed his first training session with the La Liga giants today and is in the shake-up to face Getafe in the league on Saturday evening.

Doherty is determined to hit the ground running and see out the season with ‘no regrets’ after completing his shock switch to the Spanish capital.

The wing-back sealed his Madrid move in a left-field transfer just before Tuesday’s deadline, which was initially floated as a loan from Tottenham.

But late on in negotiations, Spurs agreed to release Doherty from his contract and the Dubliner secured a permanent transfer on a free - but only until the summer.

Both Doherty and Atletico have left the door open for a longer term arrangement if the 31-year-old can follow in Kieran Trippier’s footsteps by becoming a hit signing.

After being unveiled to the fans, Doherty said today: “It's an opportunity for me to improve myself and work under another world class manager in Diego Simeone.

“I've been fortunate enough where I've been able to do that throughout my career, so for me this is all about football and trying to improve myself and help the team.

“I’m here until the end of the season but that doesn't have to be the end. That will be up to me.

“I’ll be trying to perform well and see where it takes me. Initially it's for six months but if I do well for the club, let's see what happens going forward.”

Doherty continued: “It all happened really fast. But once I had notification that this was possible, it was extremely difficult for me to reject the chance to play for this club.

“I never imagined that something like this could happen. (When I was younger) my dream was to play in the Premier League and I got to fulfil that.

“But opportunities come up that are unexpected. This is an opportunity where I can better myself as a person, exploring a different culture and different football.

“It was impossible for me to give up this opportunity.”

England ace Trippier became an Atletico favourite during his two-and-a-half year spell before joining Newcastle United this time last year.

And the right-back reached out to Doherty on deadline day, to hammer home the message that it would be a great move.

“He texted me on Tuesday, letting me know who is good to speak to in terms of finding somewhere to live,” said Doherty.

“He told me how good the atmosphere was around the training ground and with the players and coaches. He had a great time and he loved it.

“That was reassuring to hear it from him as he didn't have to relay that message to me. It goes to show what kind of person he is.”

Stephen Kenny and Matt Doherty (©INPHO/James Crombie)

Doherty eased into his new surroundings this morning with a first session for Atletico at their sun-kissed Ciudad Deportiva Atlético de Madrid training ground.

And he told Simeone - a club legend as player and manager - that he is ready to prove himself as he sets his sights on a longer contract into next season and beyond.

Doherty said: “As you know he doesn't speak a lot of English, but my message to him was that I'm here, I'm fit, I'm strong and I'm ready to play.

“I can play for him on the left, I can play for him on the right, I can play for him in the middle.

“Wherever he needs me, whether it's five minutes or 90 minutes, he knows I won't stop running and will be working as hard as possible for him, my team-mates and the club.

“That was my message to him - that I'm ready to go and to help the team.”

At the helm since 2011, Simeone has won two La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey and two Europa Leagues and was also twice a Champions League runner-up.

But his teams are often criticised for being ultra defensive and conservative - not that Doherty will have any gripes about being asked to play in a particular way.

“It’s going to be very interesting for me to see a Diego Simeone team and how they even set up for games in training,” he said.

“I understand in England, and when you hear pundits speak, that they don't speak highly about the style of play.

“But as footballers involved in the game, we know exactly what is going on. There’s more than one way to win a game.

“You can play 90 minutes and play nice football and win, or you can play nice football and lose.

“People's style of play, it's just someone's opinion but it's not the same opinion that I have.

“I’ve always had admiration for the way Atletico Madrid play. Even when they played Champions League against English teams, seeing how passionate the away fans were.

“I’ve always admired the coach and how he sets his teams up and how difficult they are to beat.

“For me, it was a no-brainer when the opportunity came and I had to take it with both hands. It's an absolute pleasure to be here.”

And Doherty added: “There are 19 league games left and a lot to play for. We want to finish the season as strongly as possible and see where it takes.

“I want to finish the season with no regrets.

“I’ve watched a lot of games live and people have texted me saying you’re going to get to play in front of those fans, which will be something special.

“I agree, it will be something special and I can’t wait.”

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