The first thing that catches the attention of Thomas Lemar (Guadeloupe, France, 22 years old), the most expensive signing in the history of Atlético, are his fibrous wire legs. Two reeds on which he bases those changes of rhythm and direction that disorient his rivals and allow him to start his attempts to hook the game to Griezmann or Costa. He speaks calmly so much to get rid of the pressure of his price (70 million euros) – "it's not something of mine, nor am I the one who talks about it, they are conversations between clubs" – as if to tell how the elite can be reached having been born on an island in the French Antilles.
Question. How is Guadalupe?
Answer. It is very beautiful, quite small, I do not know how many inhabitants it will have, but it is quite touristy. It is very cool to live, the weather is nice, warm, there is a beach … There, you are relaxed, you enjoy the scenery … You live well, the people are friendly and calm like me.
P. Did I play soccer on the beach?
R. Yes, a lot, he lived five minutes. When I had time I played with my friends and then direct to bathe in the heat !.
P. It should not be easy to become a professional by being born in Guadeloupe.
R. There is a pre-training center. You enter 12 years old and at 14 you try to join a professional club, either in France or abroad, it does not matter. You try to notice them during competitions like the Coupe Nationale that is played in Clairefontaine, get the attention of the scouts … If everything goes well, you make tests in professional clubs, then they make you a training contract to have a small salary and be able to live. If everything goes well, the procedure is fast. If you measure up in football like in the studios, you're fine, but if a club does not stay with you, you have to try to be good at the school level.
P. Who discovered him?
Running more does not bother me, on the contrary it is a pleasure to make efforts for the companions
R. I would say my father. I can not say that he has forced me, but he is a great soccer fan and he has gotten along well. He is a customs officer, he did not play at a high level, but he has helped me in my progression.
P. Is it true that at the age of three, watching a match at the World Cup in France 98, he told his father that he wanted to be a footballer?
R. Uffff, yes it is possible (laughs)
P. From Guadalupe to Caen with only 14 years old.
R. The first year was quite hard, to go from the Caribbean to Normandy, it's not easy (laughs) … Then there's the way to live, start being independent … You're with other young people, you share a room … For me that was easy because I came with another boy from Guadalupe. Still, it was difficult because I was not with my family very much … By the third year I went to an apartment
P. What did his inner strength tell him to endure all that?
R. All the young people from Guadalupe who left with the same age as me said that once we had left home, we only had the goal of signing as professionals. Being 8,000 km from my house that was my goal … It is good to find a training center, but to take the next step you have to become professional.
P. When he signs the Monaco he meets Jardim.
R. It has been very important to me. He is the coach that allowed me to discover high level football, the Champions, the French championships … In Caen I only played a couple of matches in Ligue 1 and Ligue2. I was not ready. Thanks to him I am where I am.
P. What did you think the first time you saw Mbappé train?
As a leader, Griezmann brings freshness and stability. It is an example for young people
R. I had already seen him with the B team of the Monaco the previous week and marked the differences. The next week he came up with us and did the same in training. Explosivity, changes of rhythm … It is the same player that we now see.
P. Before the World Cup in Russia, he was aiming to start, but Deschamps opted first for Dembélé and then for Matuidi. How did you digest it?
R. It was the decision of the coach and must be respected. It worked, we won! The friendlies and a World Cup are different. We all want to play, but you have to have a correct mental state to go in the same direction as the team. There was good atmosphere. We had the concern of youth, but there were also veterans to guide us. There was a mix with a goal and the same mentality.
P. How is the Griezmann leader in France?
R. As in the Atleti. Provides freshness and stability. He is a different player. We all know what he did with the selection and here. He is an example for young people like me, Mbappé and Dembélé.
P. Deschamps, like Simeone, prefers to dominate the game through spaces rather than with the ball. Has the similarities between the two helped you to adapt quickly?
R. In Monaco, with Jardim, it was also yes. First you had to defend well and then attack well. The methods are quite similar and yes, it helped my adaptation here. But I think that at Atlético the efforts are even bigger.
The methods of Simeone and Deschamps are quite similar, it helps my adaptation. But at Atlético the efforts are even bigger
P. He brought the lesson learned, as soon as he arrived he said that if he had to run more, he would do it.
R. I knew what was coming, the demands of here. I do not complain because I like to be at the service of the team and running more does not bother me, on the contrary it is a pleasure to make efforts for the teammates.
P. It seems that talented players are always suspected of not running.
R. What is said outside does not affect me, it is not my problem (laughs). I take care of what I have to do in the field. The personal field is always after the collective ..
P. When Griezmann arrived, he confessed that in the first trainings with Prof Ortega he lacked oxygen.
R. The preparation to play against Real Madrid in Supercopa was difficult, but not until I lacked oxygen (laughs).
P. Why do you like Silva?
R. For his way of playing and being. It's like Iniesta, the same style of play and they are humble. They are different, but the two touch the ball very well, they are incredibly skilful with their feet, they give forward passes that break lines, they have changes of rhythm that I like … They know what they do
P. France is a very physical selection [Lemar mide 170 cms] and Atlético also. How does it feel to be surrounded by players like Pogba, Kanté, Saúl …?
R. They are physical players, but also with technique. They know how to mark differences in their different zones offensively or defensively.
P. Simeone makes him leave from the band, then go inside. Do you prefer to play more focused?
R. I will do what the coach asks, but it is true that I tend to go to the center.
More dribbler or more passer? I am effective
P. What has surprised you most about Spanish football?
R. It's different than Ligue 1. It's much more physical there, although here there are also teams like that, but the French are much closer.
P. He has lost balls in complicated areas for haggling.
R. I am young and I will continue learning. When I lose a ball I do not think the world falls. Everyone loses them. But what matters most is the reaction. Try to recover it as soon as possible to ward off the danger
P. Is he lefty closed?
R. 100%, but it may happen that you mark with your right hand.
P. Is it more a dribbler or a passer?
R. I am effective