As soon as the Champions League draw was made and Liverpool found out they were set to face reigning champions Real Madrid, tomorrow's match at Anfield would have been circled on a great many calendars. For Javi Manquillo, though, it's a game that holds more significance than simply a meeting of two of Europe's most storied clubs.
"I spent four seasons there at the 'Cantera,'" said the 20-year-old fullback whose career began at Real Madrid before the Spanish giants cut his twin brother and both headed across town to Atletico Madrid. "They were the first club who opened their doors to me as a player [so] I'm very thankful to them for helping me grow, and it will be nice to play against them now in a Liverpool jersey."
His decision to move across town along with his brother was made easier by the fact that he had grown up in a family of Atleti supporters. His friends, too, had supported Madrid's underdogs, making his academy switch something of a homecoming—and meaning that his friends and family won't just be hoping to see Manquillo do well on Wednesday.
"When I first started playing for Real, my friends would joke with me," he said. "They would say, 'How can you now play for our rivals? How could you do that?" They were all Atleti fans, too, and they would constantly tease me, in good humour, about playing for Real. So when the draw was made, they were all contacting me, encouraging me to play well and to beat Madrid for them.
"We know it will be tough, but hopefully Liverpool can make my friends' dreams come true."