Villa: Atletico even better than I thought

The summer signing from Barcelona says he could not have anticipated the start to the season his new side have enjoyed despite their recent successes
David Villa admits the early-season success of Atletico Madrid has exceeded his expectations, even though he knew he was joining a strong squad.

Diego Simeone's side sit second in La Liga after 13 games, just three points behind champions Barcelona, while they won their opening four matches of the Champions League group phase to confirm their place in the knockout stages.

The former Barcelona striker concedes that the capital club's fine form to date has come as a pleasant surprise to him.

"I expected to find something good, but this has been better than what I imagined," Villa told Marca.

"I had an image of a great team, a tough team who it was always very difficult to play against. Then I saw there was an exceptional group too – a very healthy locker room.

"But in football there are not many coincidences, this team had been on a path that included two Europa Leagues, two European Super Cups, one Copa del Rey won against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. That cannot be coincidence.

"The team was already there and now I have just come in to try and help them to grow."

Villa says the team sprit at Atletico has impressed him hugely and believes it is a central factor to any successful side, such as the bond held between players in the national team.

He continued: "I always give the example of Spain. A strong and united team alone may not win you a World Cup, but it certainly helps you to win it.

"The atmosphere here is very good. We have a tight-knit locker room where everyone would give something up for the next person. That extends to the relationship with the coaches, the physios ..."

The forward also paid tribute to Simeone for transforming the fortunes of the club in the past three seasons.

"Simeone is a guy with a very large character. He conveys through coaching what he experienced as a player," Villa added.

"Atletico have not achieved all of this by chance. The success speaks for who he is and why the players believe in him.

"Important people at the club told me that Simeone has changed the whole mentality of the club."