João Félix played his first minutes of the season on Sunday, replacing Antoine Griezmann for the final half hour in Atletico Madrid’s 2-1 victory away at Espanyol in La Liga.

The Portugal international missed the early stages of the season following ankle surgery, carried out just days after the Seleção’s defeat to Belgium in the European Championships. Having struggled with the problem for much of last season, an operation was deemed inevitable and Félix says the procedure has been successful.

“It was difficult [being injured] as it is never easy to play when you are not well, but I did it of my own free will to try to help the team,” Félix said on Monday. “I'm fine, recovered and I'm only focused on this season and the next game, which is important for us.

“[Getting minutes on Sunday] felt good. It had been a long time since I felt like this, with the freedom to do the movements that previously hurt and now do not, and my game is returning. I hope to be more prepared than ever for this season.”

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Atletico host Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday in the Spanish capital, giving ex-Benfica man Félix the chance to resume rivalries with the Dragons. “I know their team well, their characteristics and ways of playing and I am prepared for the game,” he said.

By Sean Gillen

@SeanGillen9