2019/20 Countdown: Atletico Madrid
La Liga – 2nd; Copa Del Rey – Last 16; UEFA Champions League; Last 16; Top scorer (all competitions) – Antoine Griezmann (21)
The Question: Is there a change of style afoot?
Last season left Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid with a bit of a conundrum. Early exits in the Spanish and European cup (the latter of which was a collapse against Juventus) were topped with a non-challenge in the title race, and those raised the question of whether constant years of simply being the overachieving third wheel in Spain are still enough. A team of such weight will surely have to start doing better, particularly up front. Achievement is created by ambition, yet achievement creates the dark side of ambition, and Los Colcheronos may be on the other half of it.
They have undergone a fair amount of changes to the squad, not least the big-money departure of Antoine Griezmann, and the big-money arrival of Joao Felix. A number of key players have left and a number have joined, and that has begged the question of whether a change in style is impending. Atleti have built a ‘safety-first’ reputation under Simeone, a style that makes them hard to beat, and yet has made them short up front on occasion, and calls for them to be a bit more attacking have not been infrequent.
Simeone has tried to be front-footed in the past, but, after a few inconsistent displays and results, has reverted to his traditional mode. But they’ve spent big on Felix, who may well be the face of their new era, and perhaps this is the year we see a long-lasting attacking Atletico side.
Felix is the big-money signing, from Benfica, but there are also a few other arrivals. Hector Herrera has joined on a free from Porto, while Kieran Trippier has arrived from Spurs. Other defenders to arrive are Mario Hermoso (from Espanyol), Renan Lodi (Atletico Paranaense), and another Porto arrival in Felipe. Marcos Llorente has joined from city rivals Real, Ivan Saponjic follows Felix in swapping Lisbon for Madrid, while Alvaro Morata’s loan from Chelsea has been extended, and will be made permanent at the end of the season.
At the other side of the door, Griezmann is the headline departure, finally joining Barcelona for a nine-figure sum. Diego Godin has left on a free, eventually joining Inter, while fellow defenders Filipe Luis and Juanfran also exited after their contracts expired (Luis has joined Brazilian side Flamengo), and Lucas Hernandez has joined up with Bayern Munich after agreeing on a deal in March. Rodri has left for Manchester City after just a season at the Metropolitano, and Gelson Martins has made his loan to Monaco permanent, while Luciano Vietto has joined Sporting Lisbon.
Atletico Madrid have spent big in the market and will be looking to make up for the capitulations of last season. They may have lost a few players, but still, have their most valuable asset in their manager Simeone.
Atletico have a rather new-look side and may be undergoing a transition period. Their heavy spending in the market may lead to a rise in expectations, and they still have Barcelona and Real Madrid to contend with.
The Gaffer (Diego Simeone)
The Argentine enters his eighth full season at the Metropolitano, having delivered every trophy with the club other than the Champions League. Unarguably remains Atletico’s biggest asset, but this season may be a big test if the change of style does happen. Not like he hasn’t overseen big tests in his time at the Spanish capital.
How will they do
A top-three finish in Spain is almost a given, but a sustained title challenge is expected. Yet, with the other two of La Liga’s big three also spending well and having a greater sense of expectation, Atleti may well have to make do with just a sustained title challenge.
Kunle Ajao121 Posts
Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not