Angelino talks Julian Nagelsmann, Pep Guardiola, Trent Alexander-Arnold and more in frank interview with Leipzig man

Former Manchester City player Angelino on the difference between Julian Nagelsmann and Pep Guardiola, and why he is still hopeful of getting the better of Liverpool in the second leg of their Champions League tie with RB Leipzig on Wednesday

RB Leipzig's Angelino
Image: RB Leipzig's Angelino opens up on getting his chance under Julian Nagelsmann after being frustrated at Manchester City

Perhaps you spotted the recent quotes from Angelino about former boss Pep Guardiola. "It killed me," he said of his time at Manchester City. "I was judged in pre-season. Two games."

Such is his desire to play that he does not reserve this honesty only for old employers. When RB Leipzig's social media account explained his recent absence from the squad against Borussia Monchengladbach by referring to a muscle injury, the reply from Angelino was swift - informing everyone that he was not injured at all and had in fact been available.

Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann has become accustomed to the outbursts. "I love this guy because he always wants to play. He is very emotional. He is not a guy for the bench."

To understand this fiery Galician and his talk of having "had enough holidays" at City, some context is required. This is a young man who has been shaped by a life and career that has already taken him on a journey to Eindhoven and New York, to Manchester and Mallorca.

It has not always been easy. Not in this lockdown world when he is so far away from his son, living with the boy's mother in Barcelona. "It is a bad situation. I prefer not to talk about it." Against that backdrop, his passion to play takes on greater significance.

"Here, I am a foreigner, not seeing the family," says Angelino.

"When you are with your teammates, at least you can hang out with them for many hours at the club. The outside part is the worst part. You have to deal with not going home or people not coming in whenever you want. When you live abroad, it is the worst side.

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"The only good part is playing games.

"I am happy when we play three games a week because then you don't think that much."

Angelino during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and RB Leipzig at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on February 19, 2020 in London, United Kingdom.
Image: Angelino is grateful for the chance at Leipzig he feels he didn't get at Man City

It is the sort of frankness appreciated by the small group of journalists afforded time with him before the second leg of Leipzig's Champions League tie with Liverpool in Budapest.

Angelino is not shy of an opinion on that either.

Moments later, he is describing Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold as "too offensive" - a little ironic coming from arguably the most attacking full-back in football.

He has seven goals and seven assists this season, three of each coming in the Champions League. Only Lionel Messi and Toni Kroos have created more chances in the competition.

Angelino's chances created for RB Leipzig in the Champions League this season

While Guardiola is asking Joao Cancelo to come inside for Manchester City, Angelino is advancing far beyond that. Occasionally, he is used as an out-and-out winger, but even as a nominal full-back in the first-leg defeat to Liverpool, he had three attempts on goal.

"I have to be in the right position when we attack," he explains.

"The role is very offensive. We want to play offensive football, we want to have the ball and kill the teams with runs in behind. We try to play good football. My role is to play as high as possible and just to get the end product on the left."

Bundesliga opponents are wise to it now. Angelino's influence on the left has become so huge, the danger so great, that treating him like a normal full-back is no longer an option.

"They follow me more. Most teams put a man on me. But, you know, when I make a move or something, I make space for my teammates. We know they adapt a little bit more, they put more pressure on my side but they leave more spaces on the right so it is good. We still create spaces and that is what is important for the team."

The brilliance of Nagelsmann explained

Nagelsmann has been the central figure in unlocking Angelino's talent. Prior to working with the wunderkind of coaching, some had wondered whether he had the defensive instincts to become a top-class left-back, others doubted he had the trickery of a true winger.

His new coach recognised the pugnacious qualities. "I don't watch sports, only UFC." A tattooed streetfighter of a player, he now patrols the entire left flank for Leipzig.

This hybrid role has suited him perfectly.

"My position and my numbers are thanks to the team and thanks to the manager.

"Tactically, he is great. He always has the right keys for opponents.

"Obviously, he puts me in a position where I get a lot of movements when we are attacking. I get a lot of chances normally. Not so often now. But it is thanks to the team and him.

"Everything we practise is to get to the box as quickly as possible. If my positioning is good, I will get a chance or at least put the last ball in. For sure, it is thanks to him."

RB Leipzig's team shape in the Champions League this season with Angelino pushing on from left-back

Aside from tactics, it is the personal touch.

On the difference between Nagelsmann and Guardiola, Angelino is succinct. "One gave me confidence and played me, the other didn't." But he goes on to elaborate on a relationship that has altered the trajectory of his career.

"I think it is the approach he has to the players. He is very close to every player. He is very direct. When he needs to speak to you he does. Also, he is very friendly. Or at least with me.

"I feel like we have a good relationship. He gave me his trust and his confidence since the first day. It was something that pushed me. He gave me a massive push in my career.

"When someone believes that much in you and keeps playing you, you have to pay them back. I am very happy that I can keep working with him, hopefully for a long time."

Angelino's role for RB Leipzig in the Champions League this season

Angelino has had plenty of moves already but how long they are together at Leipzig could depend on Nagelsmann. The 33-year-old German seems destined for bigger things. "He is so young as a coach, he has a long run to go," adds Angelino.

"He can coach anywhere he wants. If you look around now, there are not many coaches working as good as him [with] what he has now. He is managing a really good team but imagine if he has an even better team, what he could do, you know what I mean?"

Looking to upset Liverpool in Europe

Before all that, there is a title race to contest with Bayern Munich and the second leg of their Champions League tie against Liverpool. That will test Nagelsmann as his team travels to Budapest looking to turn around a two-goal deficit from the first leg.

"It was tough because I thought we played a really good match," Angelino insists.

"We were a few times behind their full-backs. Alexander-Arnold on the ball is unbelievable but he is too offensive. But that is his best [quality] so we have to exploit the weakness and hopefully we can get a few more chances like we did in the first game. That was our mistake that we did not put them away.

"We could have put some pressure on them [by] scoring some of the chances we got. We felt we gave them two mistakes and a team like Liverpool, with the quality they have got, they kill you if you give them just a little bit.

"But we are positive because we played a strong match. If we don't make mistakes and we put our chances away, it can turn around, the situation. There is still 90 minutes to go and we will be focused and ready to go again. The pressure, I would say, is more on them than us. We are the underdog so we go from behind."

Angelino's shot map for RB Leipzig in the Champions League this season

Angelino has watched from afar as his former club cruises to the Premier League title, but perhaps that distance lends some perspective on the qualities that the reigning champions still possess despite their stuttering form. He is wary of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. "It is a big difference when you play against teams that have two players like this, not one."

But the loss of Virgil van Dijk has been critical.

"Obviously, he was very important for them at the back. He was so strong. In the end, they don't have many changes. They have their very strong eleven.

"They did not win the Champions League and the Premier League for nothing. You cannot be perfect all the time but they have an unbelievable team, great qualities. Great quality up front and when they have Van Dijk at the back, he is unbelievable.

"But every team has their ups and their downs. They can beat anyone when they have their day and everybody is fit so you just have to be very focused and stick to the plan.

"Individually they have great players and for sure they will compete again and get back to their best. Hopefully not in their next match against us. They can wait a little bit longer."

Four-year deal at Leipzig brings stability

Angelino has waited long enough. He signed a four-year contract with Leipzig last month, committing his future to the club that believed in his abilities. At 24, he is hoping that, minor injury disagreements aside, his days on the bench are over.

"I want to be on the pitch every time. RB made it possible.

"It is something that I was looking forward to - to be stable in a place - and thanks to RB I can make it happen. I am excited to be part of this family for a longer period.

"I came here and from the first day, they gave me the trust. The club, the coach, they all gave me a massive push so I am just happy to be here with them.

"We have a really strong team and can compete with anyone.

"We are in a good situation in the league, a good situation in the cup and we have our chance in the Champions League so we are still alive. The vibes are good in the team.

"I am just happy that I am stable and I have many years to look forward."

Ultimately, Angelino's attitude is summed up in his final sentence.

"I just like to play football."

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