Diego Simeone was blown away by Kieran Trippier’s athleticism during the defender’s first training session at Atletico Madrid’s Ciudad Deportiva HQ in the summer of 2019.
The defender had just lost his place in the England squad, culled by Gareth Southgate for the inaugural UEFA Nations League finals, but Simeone was intent on giving his £20million signing more to complain about.
The Atletico boss uses his pre-season training camps as a test; not only of his players’ fitness, but of their character.
Right back Kieran Trippier was a surprised selection at left back for England against Croatia
Trippier put in an assured defensive display as the Three Lions opened Euro 2020 with a win
Monday 14 June
Sunday 13 June
Oscar Ortega, Atletico’s notorious conditioning coach, doesn’t suffer fools gladly. His pre-season sessions are brutal: dizziness, vomiting and total exhaustion come with the territory.
Not for Trippier, though. He took everything they threw at him, and then some. His numbers were through the roof, with Simeone and Ortega suitably impressed.
Having proved himself to his new management team, Trippier set about proving Southgate wrong.
By his own admission, Trippier’s form fell off a cliff in his final six months at Tottenham, leading to Southgate’s decision to drop him.
He was a key player for England in their memorable run to the 2018 World Cup semi-final
He has been described as ‘defensive animal’ and a ‘warrior’ by England boss Gareth Southgate
MARTIN KEOWN – INVERTED FULL-BACKS ARE NO RISK
One standout player from this tournament’s opening week is Leonardo Spinazzola of Italy.
Like Kieran Trippier against Croatia, the 28-year-old was a right-footer playing at left back and he was devastating against Turkey.
There are some iconic names who played at left back as right-footers, such as Paolo Maldini and Philipp Lahm.
Trippier performing this role against Croatia was nothing new. A right-footed left back can bring certain benefits to the team. When Trippier cuts inside on to his preferred right foot, he’s got the whole of the pitch to pick a pass. It gives him options.
Trippier was playing behind Raheem Sterling — a right-footer playing on the left wing — against Croatia.
Sterling doesn’t need constant support from his full back because he can be fed the ball and left to do his thing. With Kyle Walker flying forward on the right wing, England had an insurance policy with Trippier remaining further back.
It was a smart move by Southgate. He wanted an experienced player next to Tyrone Mings, who was making his first appearance at a major tournament, so he started Trippier over Ben Chilwell or Luke Shaw.
It worked. Football is awash with inverted wingers nowadays, so why not have inverted full backs, too?
Moving to Madrid, however, has revived the full-back. Having made 33 appearances during his first season with Atletico, he made 36 last term as Simeone’s men won a LaLiga title.
He would have played plenty more if it weren’t for a 10-week ban for breaking betting rules in relation to his move to Spain two years ago.
If there’s anything Southgate loves, it’s his players competing at an elite level every week. Pipping Real Madrid and Barcelona is as elite as it gets.
It seems strange now to think Southgate even contemplated dropping Trippier from his squad in 2019.
In England’s first match of Euro 2020 on Sunday, he was the shock inclusion in an unfamiliar left back role in the starting XI against Croatia ahead of Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw, who both play in the position for their club.
By full time, following 90 minutes of putting his body on the line in the sweltering heat, he had emerged as one of England’s heroes. Not that it came to any surprise to Southgate.
The England boss calls Trippier his ‘warrior’. He loves the defender’s attitude and tenacity.
At 5ft 8in he isn’t necessarily the most imposing, but there is a reason right winger Andrej Kramaric was one of the first to be hooked by Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic on Sunday.
That’s not to say Trippier is all heart and no ability. Having lost Trent Alexander-Arnold to injury before the tournament and having decided not to take James Ward-Prowse, Southgate will find Trippier’s dead-ball ability invaluable during the Euros.
His incisive passes into the feet of England’s forwards were also a key feature of Sunday’s win.
It will be a surprise if Trippier is not selected for England’s second match against Scotland on Friday night. The left back role is the right back’s to lose.
‘What Kieran has, firstly, is hugely underestimated,’ explained Southgate.
‘I think people are still seeing the lad who was at Spurs a couple of years ago and not the defensive animal that has grown at Atletico Madrid, trusted by one of the best coaches and most successful coaches in the world.’
After leaving Tottenham, Trippier has flourished defensively under Diego Simeone in Spain
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is eyeing a £10million move for Trippier to cover for Aaron Wan-Bissaka
The immediate target for Trippier is clear: to help England to their first trophy since 1966.
Judging by his performance against the Croats and his manager’s comments, he will have a leading role to play. Further ahead, the future isn’t quite so cut and dried.
Manchester United are interested in him, in search of an alternative to Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
They have had an offer worth £10million knocked back but are expected to return. Trippier was born and raised in Bury. He has roots in the North West and sources claim it would suit his family for him to return. The move, it appears, has a chance.
It is gearing up to be an interesting summer for Trippier.