The Mexican didn't score in his cameo against Real Madrid, but there were signs he's set to play a big part for the Liga champion.It was only Aug. 10 that Raul Jimenez’s future was still up in the air as the striker featured in Club America’s 2-0 win over Tigres in Monterrey.
Fast forward nine days and the 23-year-old Mexico international made his official debut for Atletico Madrid under the steep bleachers and intense atmosphere of Real Madrid’s famous Bernabeu stadium against his new team’s biggest rival in the Spanish Supercopa.
Meanwhile, back in Mexico, his old team America entertained Puerto Rico’s Bayamon in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Jimenez has entered a whole new world at Atleti and, even if his debut may have only been a 12-minute stint off the bench, he will now be very aware of what he has got himself into.
It wasn’t the dream headline-grabbing, goalscoring debut, but Tuesday’s 1-1 draw was a decent start to life at Atleti for Jimenez.
The game highlighted that Atletico Madrid will once again be competitive in La Liga, despite changes at the club in the offseason, and that Jimenez has an important role to play under Diego Simeone. The Argentine coach certainly didn’t hesitate in throwing Jimenez – who wore the number 11 shirt - straight in at the deep end when he was brought on for Mario Mandzukic in the 78th minute.
It is obviously early days for Jimenez, but getting playing time is the primary concern when a Mexican player moves to Europe – especially when it is one of the continent’s biggest clubs – and it seems he will get chances.
Tuesday’s official debut followed off the back of Jimenez’s first friendly start on Saturday in Atleti’s 2-0 win over Sampdoria in the Trofeo Carranza, in which Jimenez went 79 minutes, earning the praise of Simeone.
“Raul has arrived in very good shape,” said “el Cholo” after the game. “It is normal because he is coming in after four games in the Mexican league.”
Added Simeone: “He showed what we imagined: good play with his back to goal, (good) judgment and above all good peripheral play to help the team grow when it attacks.”
Captain Gabi Fernandez also praised Atleti’s latest new recruit.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” he said. “Raul adapted very quickly to the team... He’ll be an important player this season.”
They were genuine and encouraging words out the Atletico camp about Jimenez. It all bodes well ahead of the return leg of the Supercopa against Real this Friday, as well as the upcoming season in La Liga.