Thomas Partey is becoming an increasingly important part of Diego Simeone’s plans at Atletico Madrid, and has credited the manager’s patience as a key reason for his progress.
Partey has already made seven La Liga starts this season – more than he managed in the entirety of the 2016-17 campaign – and has featured in all four of Atleti’s Champions League group stage fixtures, netting a valuable 30-yard equaliser in the 1-1 home draw with Qarabag on Tuesday.
As with many of the club’s young players, Partey had to be patient for his opportunity, spending a season on loan at both Mallorca and Almeria before returning to Atletico to fight for a place in the team.
The Ghana international believes the time his manager has given him to improve and mature has been instrumental in his rise to prominence at the club.
“Simeone allowing me time to develop was important and I had to wait for my chances,” Partey told KweséESPN. “The manager spoke with me many times in the past to keep me involved and now I am playing more.
“He is great at motivating the players and makes it clear to us how he wants us to play and how we can continue to improve.”
Partey has impressed when paired with Gabi in the heart of Atleti’s midfield this season, notably starring in the 0-0 draw at Valencia and also finding the net in the 5-1 away win at Las Palmas – a game in which the Ghana international ran the show.
The 24-year-old has acknowledged that his prominent role with the Spanish heavyweights – and his status as one of the few Black Stars still plying their trade at a true European giant – puts pressure on him to succeed with the national side.
“Of course there is expectation because I play for Atletico; I am a young player and still quite new to the national team. I know that I just have to keep playing and improving and try to not think about the pressure.”
This season has been up-and-down for Atletico so far, with the club trying to acclimatise to their surroundings at the brand new Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
Heading into the weekend’s trip to Deportivo La Coruna, they’ve amassed 20 points from their opening 10 fixtures to sit eight points behind leaders Barcelona.
“It’s true that it can be difficult to cope with changing stadiums but we have to ensure we continue to acclimatise,” Partey added. “It is a positive step for the club overall and our focus must be to keep winning games.”
The Champions League has brought the best out of Atletico in recent years, yet they have disappointed this time around, taking just three points from four games so far.
“Our aim is to take it game by game and win as many as possible,” Partey continued. “We are not thinking about anything other than that.
“The Champions League group is difficult but we had good games against both Roma and Chelsea where we weren’t able to get more points. If we can continue to play well I think we will take more points from the group.”
Perhaps in need of a boost, Atletico can look forward to the return of Diego Costa, who is not eligible to play until January after his late move from Chelsea was confirmed in September.
“We all know Diego as a person and what he can do on the pitch,” Partey continued. “I believe it is a good signing for us. He knows the club well and will definitely make us stronger in attack.”
Four games into their UCL group-stage campaign, Atletico find themselves four points behind Chelsea and five off group leaders Roma.
Anything less than victory would almost certainly deny them a place in the knockout stages when they host Roma later this month.