Atlético Madrid were dealt a much needed boost this week as Diego Simeone confirmed he would be staying put to oversee what is set to be a pretty comprehensive squad makeover.
‘I like my job and I’m committed to Atlético’ stated Cholo, easing fears he would be part of a summer exodus. You could have certainly understood were he to walk away now with this feeling very much like the end of a successful era for the red and white half of Madrid. Of course there is no reason why they can’t tear part of the house down and start again but it’s going to be a big job and not since the summer of 2011 has such a rebuild been necessary.
Atleti can look to 2011 for Inspiration
That summer saw Atleti lose star players David de Gea and Sergio Agüero to the Manchester clubs while Diego Forlán, who had netted 90 goals in four seasons at the Vicente Calderón, also departed. Despite making a net profit on their 2011 transfer dealings, Atleti made some inspired signings and somehow managed to come back stronger, at least by the end of a campaign which saw Diego Simeone, the most important signing of all, installed as boss.
Gabi, Tiago and Arda Turan joined in the run-up to the 2011/12 campaign to totally revitalise the midfield for a combined total of just €16 million. De Gea was replaced by the loan signing of Thibaut Courtois while the fee received for Agüero more than covered the purchase of Radamel Falcao, who would score 36 goals in his first season at the club, as Atleti improved on their previous finishing position in La Liga and won the Europa League to give Simeone the first of the seven trophies he has won as coach of Los Rojiblancos.
After five seasons with Atletico Madrid, Antoine Griezmann says he needs to leave. pic.twitter.com/TlL8OUUex4
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 15, 2019
This summer Atlético Madrid are again set to lose several of their most important players. Diego Godin has already been given his richly deserved send-off with Juanfran also confirming he will be departing. If Filipe Luis goes too, and it’s expected he will, the back four that was so key in their remarkable title win five years ago will have been totally dismantled. With Lucas Hernández having already agreed to join Bayern Munich, Atleti could end up losing four defensive mainstays this summer putting their status as La Liga’s most efficient defence in serious jeopardy.
Antoine Griezmann is set to be the most high profile departure after the Frenchman confirmed that he would be leaving the club last week without shedding any light on his destination. Rodri is widely expected to follow him out the door after just one season at the Wanda Metropolitano with Manchester City his likely destination although Bayern are also reported to be keen. Such an exodus risks unsettling other players too with fellow midfielders Saúl and Thomas Partey players that would certainly appeal to several members of the Premier League’s powerful top six.
Read more – Is this a Real Madrid season review?
How much will Atleti have to spend?
If there is a silver lining to all this, it is that Atlético Madrid are set to have a very significant war-chest available to them to rebuild this squad. They’ve already reaped in over €100 million so far in 2019 from the sales of Hernandez, Luciano Vietto and Jonny Castro. That should be topped up by a further €120 million with Antoine Griezmann’s release fee expected to be activated by Barcelona in July. Cashing in on Rodri would then push their transfer earnings for the whole year to something in the region of €300 million, a figure which could grow further should more players depart.
Atleti are unlikely to spend all of that cash in one summer. There was always a sense that they perhaps overspent last year by investing almost €200 million on new players having only just completed the construction of their impressive new stadium. With Antoine Griezmann ultimately staying when most expected him to join Barcelona, it was always likely that the books would need to be balanced at some point in the non too distant future.
However unquestionably by the time the exodus is complete, Atleti are still going to have a sizeable pool of funds available for the purchase of new players and they will need to try to rekindle the magic of 2011 when their recruitment was second to none.
Where will Atleti be looking to Strengthen?
Goalkeeper – In Safe Hands with Oblak
If there is one position where Atlético already have the best in class, it’s in goal. Jan Oblak has been exceptional again this term and the good news for Atleti fans is that there is no suggestion he will be part of the summer exodus. Back-up Antonio Adán hasn’t featured much and hasn’t always convinced when he has but is contracted through to 2020. With much bigger priorities, the goalkeeper position is one where Atleti are unlikely to make any changes this summer.
Defence – Build Around Giménez
Four years later, Giménez has matured a lot and is becoming more and more complete as a defender.
Next season, Josema will be expected to lead the Atlético defense. It's his chance to show that he is one of the world's best.
The talent and mentality is there. pic.twitter.com/AL7e7tkfkc
— Warriors of Uruguay (@UruguayanHeroes) May 13, 2019
The apprentice may have to return from his summer break as the master with Jose Giménez one of the few Atleti defenders who will be staying put. The Uruguayan has already proved his class and at 24 is the player who Diego Simeone will now be looking to shape his back four around. He’ll be keen for Stefan Savic to stay put too but Atleti will definitely need at the very least one new centre-back this summer to come in and compete for a starting role. 20 year old Francisco Montero has featured nine times in La Liga this term and could potentially be Atleti’s fourth choice centre-back but a loan move may be better for his development.
Santiago Arias could be the first choice right-back and he did start over half of Atleti’s games in La Liga this term doing a solid job. However Simeone seems increasingly unconvinced and will at the very least want competition for the Colombian if not an outright first choice. He may also look for a versatile defender capable of providing cover in both central defence and at full-back in the mould of Hernandez. Sime Vrsaljko is returning from a loan spell at Inter but is expected to miss the rest of 2019 following a serious knee injury adding to the problems in the right-back area.
On the other side, if Filipe Luis follows his fellow defensive stalwarts out the door, a new first choice left-back will be another top priority.
Midfield – A Waiting Game
Manchester City are expected to trigger the £61.3m release clause in the contract of Rodri (22).
— Superbia Proelia (@SuperbiaProeIia) May 17, 2019
Atleti are already a few years further down the line in the regeneration of their midfield with key men from that title winning season having already departed. Last summer, they arguably signed a €70 million player for €20 million whilst buying a €20 million one for €70 million. Thomas Lemar hasn’t delivered anywhere enough in his first season at the club following his record move. Rodri meanwhile has further underlined his status as one of the best young midfielders in Europe but with Manchester City ready to swoop, Atleti may need to wait for that move to go through before formulating their plan of action for another midfield rejig.
Marcos Llorente is reportedly in the frame for a move across the Spanish capital and he is certainly a player who should in theory fit in well at the Wanda with his high energy approach likely to go down well with Diego Simeone. Koke will also continue and will have a big role to play as the club seeks to maintain its on-pitch identity despite the squad overhaul. Given the number of departures, Atleti will be keen to hold onto the likes of Saúl and Thomas Partey but may need to have a back-up plan in case one or both ends up departing.
Read more – Where did it all go wrong for Girona?
Forwards – Back to Basics
Alvaro Morata “What is clear is what I want, I want to be here (Atletico). I'm going to do all I can to keep playing here, I did all I could to come and I will do all I can to stay. I’m not thinking about going back anywhere, only being here.” pic.twitter.com/5kkaCKhrsU
— The Blues (@TheBlues___) May 18, 2019
The biggest mistake Atleti could make this summer, may be trying to buy a like-for-like replacement for Antoine Griezmann. Such a player doesn’t really exist and Diego Simeone’s experiments with other so-called ‘flair players’ have rarely worked out well. Returning to the basic philosophy that brought success early doors for Simeone’s Atleti and pairing two powerful strikers together may be the best bet.
In theory they already have just the ticket. Alvaro Morata has made a promising start to his Atleti career and Diego Costa remains a nuisance but hasn’t delivered anything like the sort of goal returns that he managed during his first spell at the club or in England with Chelsea. With the likes of Angel Correa, Gelson Martins and Nikola Kalinić also on their books, Atleti are not short on options up top even allowing for the departure of Griezmann and we may not see much money invested in strikers this summer with the Morata-Costa partnership likely to be given a chance to develop at the start of next term.
Article via Mark Sochon – Contact: marksochon(at)hotmail.co.uk | @marksoc1 on Twitter