Atletico's Saul opens up on confidence crisis after dip in form

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Atletico Madrid v Sevilla - Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain - January 12, 2021 Atletico Madrid's Saul Niguez celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Sergio Perez

MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez has revealed he has been suffering from a crisis of confidence recently which had spilled into his personal life.

"Football is not just 11 players against 11, what happens on the pitch makes a big difference to your family and your relationship with people," Saul said after scoring his first goal of the season in Tuesday's 2-0 win over Sevilla on Tuesday.

"When things are not going well for you it's really tough."

An Atletico academy graduate, Saul developed into one of the team's most important players and a regular Spain international.

But after only missing three league games last season, he has been limited to starting half of Atletico's matches this campaign, while he has not been picked for Spain since November 2019.

He also gave an honest post-match interview after last week's shock Copa del Rey defeat by Cornella, conceding he was "not feeling good on an emotional level", adding "the team is in a good place right now but I am not".

After scoring against Sevilla, he said he had been affected by criticism.

"People do not see the work you are doing, they only see a player who is lacking confidence and many people do not help," he added.

"Certain people throw all types of insults at you but then there are people who do help and those are the ones you remember and value.

"The other day some Atletico fans came to see me to cheer me up and it helped me a lot so I'm very grateful to them. I'm going to keep working so they can be proud of me."

Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who has often preferred French midfielder Thomas Lemar to Saul this season, praised the player for trying to better his situation.

"Since he was 18 he has experienced some very good things but recently he has had a different experience. But Saul is helping himself and he is coming out of the situation he was in," Simeone said.

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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