This morning's issue of Barcelona newspaper Sport contains an article detailing Diego Simeone's nearly two-year-long search for a steady #9 and how it may nearly be over.
Or so we hope.
Atlético Madrid's manager has whittled his list down to six names, according to Sport. Expect to see a lot of this as the season winds down and summer approaches; it's no secret that Atlético are in the market for another forward and the club will have cash to spend - thanks in part to Guangzhou Evergrande's generous donation of €45 million euros in exchange for a lightly-used Jackson Martínez. Nevertheless, the six forwards "casting" for the role of Simeone's No. 9 are:
- Carlos Bacca
- Christian Benteke
- Edinson Cavani
- Diego Costa
- Mauro Icardi
- Romelu Lukaku
One by one, let's go through the proposed candidates and their feasibility for Atleti.
Bacca: Loved him at Sevilla. Dangerous, versatile forward eminently capable of leading a line - he proved as much in Spain and on the continent, where he's won Europa League twice. Has scored 14 goals in 30 appearances for Milan this season. However, he will be 30 years old in September, and while he has been fine this season, it's legitimate to ask how many more seasons of excellent production - in a better league - we can expect from the Colombian. I don't really want to part with €25 million-plus find out.
Benteke: With how he's played this season? Couldn't even hold Jackson's jock. Next.
Cavani: Has been linked with Atleti before. Powerful, strong, capable of finishing with his head and his feet. The Uruguayan would fit the profile...except he just turned 29, hasn't scored 20 league goals since leaving Napoli and could cost €50 million or so (with sky-high wages) as Paris Saint-Germain try to recoup most of what it paid for him. Unless there is a drastic change of events...no thanks.
Costa: Remains Atleti's top target this summer. When fit and out of trouble, very difficult to stop, as we know. Reports have claimed for nearly a year that Costa is not happy in London and wants to come back to Madrid. He's had a rough season at Chelsea and Simeone would welcome back the 27-year-old (28 in October) with open arms.
Icardi: Excellent young forward, was Italy's joint-top scorer in 2014-15. Not as dazzling this season, as he's had issues with Roberto Mancini's more defensive system, but Inter's captain will be a wanted man if he chooses to depart for pastures new. He's also Argentine, which will appeal to Cholo, of course. I'm not fully convinced the 23-year-old wants to leave, although Atleti could do worse if he does - especially if he costs less than €35 million. Personally, I'd like more experience.
Lukaku: Drop everything and sign him. Yes, he's only 22, and I know I just said I want more experience, but Lukaku could absolutely terrorize La Liga if he ended up in red and white. Big, physical, quick and wants to play in the Champions League. He could still end the season as the Premier League's top scorer.
I won't mention Borja Bastón here because a) he technically is an Atlético player and b) it's pretty much accepted around these parts that he needs to be given a chance - and will be given a chance - with what he's done at Eibar this season.