Diego Simeone learned a valuable lesson from the transfer of Jackson Martinez last summer, his subsequent poor form and his eventual sale to Guangzhou Evergrande. The Argentine learned that competition for places is essential but it can sometimes be at the detriment of a players' confidence and the team's overall performance. He also learned that while Diego Costa left a gaping hole in the starting 11, buying three players, each with their own Costa-like attributes, would not equate to the replacement of the Spanish striker.
Simeone publicly accepted blame for Jackson's failure at the club and he is not entirely wrong in his assessment. Nobody is quite sure how long Atletico Madrid would have waded through the nightmare that was Jackson Martinez' doomed transfer to the club but the Chinese club gave them a way out of the deal, at a profit, and los Robjiblancos are reaping the rewards.
One player whose fortunes have seemingly turned since Martinez left for China is Fernando Torres. It took El Nino 2,713 minutes to go from 99 goals to 100 in an Atletico Madrid shirt and it took him just two minutes to increase that tally to 101. It comes as no surprise that those two goals, in quick succession, came after his main rival for playing time left the club.
"Too many strikers of high quality for the same position is too much pressure. I don't believe too much in competition," said Louis van Gaal when pressed about his faith in Wayne Rooney. While we would never condone selling all the striking options, it is an interesting style used by the Dutchman and one that Simeone might have considered if he knew just how badly affected his attacking force's confidence would be with such heated competition for every game.
Atletico Madrid had three solid options - or what seemed like solid options - up front with only room for one striker in the team and one on the bench. There was a disconnect between the talent at Cholo's disposal and the return we saw on the score board. It was a was of attrition between teammates on any given match day and every time Torres was not picked, his confidence deteriorated, and extra pressure placed on Jackson's shoulders.
It is no coincidence that the €35 million summer signing was preferred over the on-loan striker with his best years behind him for much of the opening half of the year, but truth be told, you could have picked either of them and the results would have been the same. What we saw was Torres become marginalized to the point that offering him a new contract was being considered a gesture of solely sentimental value. What we have seen since his reinstatement into the team and the public display of trust in him is a vibrant, more confident El Nino with two goals in two games.
We are told not to put our eggs into one basket, but sometimes it's not a bad thing.