When speculation regarding Diego Simeone's future escalated earlier this month, panic ensued. Atletico had built so well, achieved so much and gone so far that the mere thought of the man behind it all suddenly packing his bags and leaving for Paris Saint-Germain was unbearable.
Simeone reportedly flirted with the idea of taking over the chair left behind by the sacking of Laurent Blanc. Aided with millions upon millions of a transfer kitty, Blanc was unable to provide PSG with any real sign that they were only one or two pieces away from becoming a legit threat in the Champions League.
Under the Frenchman, the multi-rich club were only ever able to go as far as the quarter-finals, with them exiting the tournament at that stage for the three years he was in charge. They may have lost out to European giants such as Chelsea, Barcelona and Manchester City but the owners of the club witnessed a lack of evidence that Blanc was able to outsmart his counterparts during the tense European knockout matches.
Simeone, never one to shy away from a challenge, would have relished the opportunity to turn PSG from pretenders into contenders on Europe's biggest stage. Despite the lure of Paris, his ties with Atleti were always going to prevent him from walking out the door he entered back in 2011. His presence changed the culture of the club he used to captain, and it would have taken a lot for Cholo to depart the Vicente Calderon.
He did, however, succeed in turning the rumours over his future into a negotiating tool. Ever since he decided to stay with the Champions League runners-up, the club have handed out two new contracts to key contributors as well as snap up the signings of two internationals. Simeone wanted the board to show the ambition he has lived with since he became involved with football, and they duly obliged.
Fernando Torres was always likely to sign a contract with his boyhood club, whether Simeone had left or not. Nonetheless, it's difficult to ignore the relationship between both iconic figures and that a new deal is now officially sorted for the Spanish striker, so soon after Simeone confirmed his desire to remain, isn't a coincidence. Antoine Griezmann is another player whose future seemed uncertain at one point or another these last few weeks. After claims from his agent that Griezmann would be interested in listening to offers from other clubs,
Atleti have acted quickly and successfully negotiated an extra year on what was already a lengthy contract. The French attacker is now tied down until the year 2021, in another deal that will have pleased Simeone. Both Griezmann and Torres will find themselves in the company of two new teammates when they return for pre-season next month as Atletico haven't just focused on extending contracts this summer.
Benfica's Nico Gaitan, long-rumoured to be leaving the Portuguese club, finally transferred to pastures new as his signing was confirmed by los Colcheneros last week. An exciting playmaker who adds much-needed depth to the squad, cost the Spanish club a mere €25million which isn't exactly a crazy amount of money to pay for a talented player when considering the inflated market of the last few years. Following the arrival of Gaitan was the purchase of Croatian right-back Sime Vrsaljko from Serie A outfit Sassuolo.
Vrsaljko will become the understudy of ever-present Juanfran for the first couple of seasons of his time at Atleti, with the hope being he will eventually evolve into a reliable starter during that period. The luxury of being able to use Vrsaljko as more of a bit-part player than consistent starter is one which Atletico have missed out on compared to their rivals of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Modern football has brought to attention the importance of having ready-made starters available in case a change is required in the starting eleven, be it through injury, suspension or fatigue. With the Champions League now becoming a key objective for Atletico, following their two trips to the final in the last three years, the boardroom have acknowledged the need for a talented and deep squad with the signings of Gaitan and Vrsaljko.
Atleti may have already spent €40million on new acquisitions but rest assured, they aren't ready just yet. Though the links with Edison Cavani from PSG and Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang look to be more hopeful than anything else, that established players are continuously linked with the club is a sign of just how far Atletico have come in recent years.
The murmurings regarding a potential return for Diego Costa continue, and will probably last for the remainder of the summer, as a new striker seems to be the next item on Simeone's shopping list. Following the failures of Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto, Atleti will be more careful when parting with a bundle of cash in return for a new forward. The lessons from last year's signings are obvious but also provide Enrique Cerezo and his comrades with a valid reason for refusing to splash an extraordinary amount of money on a certain player.
Reminiscing on summers past make this one that bit more enjoyable. This used to be a time that Atleti fans would dread as the club's best players were usually linked with moves away from the Vicente Calderon. This year, it's a different story. Instead of having to painfully and nervously read through pages of how Griezmann is ending up in a Manchester United or Chelsea jersey, the star striker made the decision to stay with Atletico for the long-term. It's a small example, but one which shows how times are changing for the club that was once an after-thought in the transfer window. In place of having skilful and gifted players leaving, los Rojiblancos are welcoming them as they boost their ranks in preparation for what promises to be another exciting campaign.