Joao Felix admits Atletico Madrid have been handed “the hardest draw possible” as the mercurial Portuguese playmaker turns thoughts towards the Champions League last-16 tie against Liverpool.
The teenager, linked with moves to Manchester United and Liverpool over the summer, made the switch from Benfica to Sporting Lisbon in a colossal €126m switch to become the fifth most expensive player of all time.
The European champions were one of several Premier League sides who scouted Felix during his Benfica days, but his transfer was ultimately deemed too costly and he instead made the move to the Spanish capital.
But now, as the youngster prepares for his first Anfield experience, the player has conceded that the Champions League pairing against the reigning European champions is “as hard as it gets” for his side.
Speaking to Eleven Sports, Felix said: “It will be a very difficult tie.
Perhaps of all the teams, they are the most difficult team.
“Liverpool are in good shape, in excellent form, they are the defending champions and it will be very difficult, as with any match in the Champions League.
“But against this Liverpool who are doing very well, it will be even more difficult.”
Atletico Madrid injury latest
Felix was the 2019 recipient of the Golden Boy award, but is one of several Atletico stars emerging as injury doubts for the first leg of the clash at the Wanda Metropolitano on February 18.
England right-back Kieran Trippier is a serious doubt for the first leg after groin surgery whilst attacking duo Alvaro Morata and Felix are set to miss out with injuries leaving them short in attack.
But Atleti – often known as tough nuts to crack – have received a welcome boost with Diego Costa back in first-team training after being ruled out since November due to surgery on a hernia.
Asked whether Bayern should make a move for Havertz, Ballack told Sport1: “Whether you might be obliged to do so depends on Philippe Coutinho’s future.
“I don’t want to make any recommendations there, but regardless of this: if Bayern act in perspective and you still want to get the best German players, Havertz has to be brought in.
“He is an exceptional player, but one thing is also clear, Havertz still needs time.
“He also needs the robustness to be mentally prepared for FC Bayern. I also needed my time in Leverkusen back then. Havertz must now look closely at his development. We do not need to talk about his footballing qualities because he is a top player.
“The Bavarians have to decide whether they need his role and what he is worth to them. He is sure to bring everything FC Bayern needs. But its possible transfer must also fit into the financial framework.
“He is still in the development phase and has bugs in his game. But that’s normal too. What I can say: He is currently in good hands in Leverkusen.
“There he can develop his personality in peace. At FC Bayern you need other characteristics to assert yourself. Just being good is not enough there.”