João Félix tells Atlético Madrid fans: I’m not the bad guy

Barcelona forward João Félix told ESPN he’s “not the bad guy” and that Atlético Madrid fans don’t know the full story after being jeered on his return to the Metropolitano on Sunday.

Félix, who is only on loan at Barça and must return to Atlético in the summer, scored the opening goal against his parent club as the Catalan side recorded a 3-0 win to climb to second in LaLiga.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

In addition to his every touch being whistled throughout the game, Atlético supporters also dirtied the plaque dedicated to Félix outside the stadium and burned a shirt with his name printed on the back.

“The fans here watching the game don’t know what happens internally,” the Portugal forward told ESPN after the match. “My [Atlético] teammates do know and, as you can see, I get on well with all of them.

“I stopped to talk with Samuel Lino and [Thomas] Lemar, while everyone came to hug me, talk to me and ask me how my family are. I have nothing against them and they have nothing against me.

“At the end of the day, I am not the bad guy here, but I understand the supporters here perfectly because they don’t know everything.”

Félix, 24, joined Atletico for a club record €120 million ($130.8m) from Benfica in 2019 but never fully settled in the Spanish capital.

He spent the second half of last season on loan at Premier League side Chelsea before joining Barça last summer on a season-long loan deal.

Speaking to ESPN before the December meeting between Barça and Atlético, when Félix scored the only goal of the game, he said his former teammates “would be lying” if they said they did not want to play more attacking football.

It was the latest in a series of comments made about Atlético’s playing style which have not sat well with supporters, while he has been criticised for being inconsistent during his four seasons with the Rojiblancos, including by Antoine Griezmann.

Therefore, a return to Atlético, where he has a contract until 2029, appears unlikely, with sources telling ESPN he is not part of coach Diego Simeone’s plans.

Félix’s goal on Sunday set Barça on the path to an impressive win against Atlético as they extended their unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions since coach Xavi Hernández announced he will step down in the summer.

“I always enjoy these games against big teams, games when the fans provoke you a little more,” Félix added. “It was a good night, leaving one of most difficult grounds in world football with three points.

“We know how they are when they play at home, but we matched them for desire and after that the quality stood out. We did very well from the first minute until the last, every single player, and keeping this up we can achieve nice things.

“We have the Champions League and LaLiga to fight for and we are going to fight until the end. We have got ourselves in [the race], we’re second in the table now and little by little we will try to cut the [eight point] gap to Real Madrid.”

The win at the Metropolitano capped an impressive week for Barça, who knocked Napoli out of the Champions League to set up a quarterfinal against Paris Saint-Germain before ending Atlético’s 25-game unbeaten streak at home in the league.

Striker Robert Lewandowski, who scored Barça’s second goal on Sunday and set up Félix and Fermín López for the other two, said the team’s improved form comes on the back of training ground tweaks.

“We have changed how we train a little in recent weeks,” Lewandowski told DAZN. “We are training with a little more intensity now.

“I feel really good and I think my teammates do, too. This could well have been one of my best games for the club, but more importantly we played well [as a team] and after the international break we have to keep taking steps forward.”