For football fans, the summer is a checklist of things that have to happen before the new season begins. The opening of the transfer window, the endless speculation, the fixtures being released, preseason training, more speculation and the building of hope - we can’t leave out the hope. And on, and on it goes.
With so much time to stew on every iota of news that invades your timeline, worries - okay, maybe not worries, but concerns - start to ruminate about who fits where, will your team ever sign that replacement left-back and what happens if your goalkeeper continues his poor form into the new season.
The reason being that you don’t have access to your team’s masterplan - assuming they have one - and while Diego Simeone has been the crown jewel at the Vicente Calderon since 2011, Atletico’s transfer strategy under him have never been perfect. It will take some precise movement in the coming weeks to ensure Atletico are not left short when it comes to goals, squad numbers and fitness when the business end of the league rolls around next year.
The accumulation of talent and loaning of players is an excellent idea but picking which players to loan can sometimes prove difficult and here are three decisions Simeone has to make this summer that could affect everything about how next year pans out for los Rojiblancos.
Who goes out on loan?
Last year, no less than 11 players went out on loan last season from Atletico Madrid (I added in the likes of Alessio Cerci and Josuha Guilavogui who never will be Atletico Madrid players).
You can understand the younger players like Emiliano Velazquez and Bernard Mensah, who are never going to earn playing time in La Liga given Atletico’s squad strength, and are far better off on loan but decisions must be made on the likes of Borja Baston and Luciano Vietto regarding their more long-term futures.
Angel Correa has been assured he will get ample opportunity at the Calderon next season and you would hope that Thomas Partey’s case is the same, with both Oliver Torres and Diogo Jota in similar positions.
Collecting a squad of players who may or may not contribute now or in the future is one thing but Atletico lacked a cutting edge last year and it ultimately hurt them in the race for La Liga. Simeone has decisions to make over who stays around and who goes in search of football at another club for a year and even longer.
Picking a number nine
Atletico were stung last season. Not stung by the seller of Jackson Martinez, or even the player himself, but by his inability to adapt to Cholo’s system and his slow, sluggish start to life in Spain.
The same can be said for Luciano Vietto. Having scored 22 times for Villarreal the year before, he struggled to adapt and now finds himself on the periphery at Atletico and on his way out the door unless a loan deal to Sevilla is the outcome of the bidding race between them and Barcelona.
Admittedly, a lot of this won’t come down to choice, but who is available and whether or not their club are willing to sell them, but Simeone needs to find a goalscorer who will land 20-25 goals next season. A Diego Costa or a Mauro Icardi.
If none of his first three choices are available then adaptations must be made and Borja Baston needs to be sutured into the team because reaching beyond your first, second or even third choices will only lead to another situation like we had with Martnez. Baston might not get 25 goals but is a better long term option that a player like Carlos Bacca, who is closing in on 30 and probably won’t be any better than Martinez or Mandzukic.
First choice central midfielder
Tiago Mendes’ injury forced Simeone to have a long, hard look at his options at the base of his midfield last season. With that came two new signings in Matias Kranevitter - a long-term replacement - and Augusto Fernandez.
Fernandez was excellent in Tiago’s place but with the return of one of Atletico’s leaders, comes a decision on how to accommodate everyone with enough game-time.
Cholo’s philosophy does not allow him to rest players with an eye on games further down the tracks but perhaps a tweaking of his plan will allow different players play in the Copa del Rey.
It won’t be ideal for Koke to be shunted out left again given the fact that Nico Gaitan will most likely occupy that position as an attacking midfielder so there are only three places up for grabs with two most likely taken by Saul Niguez and Gabi.
It is time Koke took control of this team and started running the midfield like many expected he would be doing at this stage. When placed in a more central role, he played remarkably better than he did when he was placed on the left. Tiago’s game time might be reduced but the 35-year-old is ageless, training well, and has Simeone’s trust, so we will see how that pans out..
Tiago is on fire. Acertado cara a puerta. Uno de los varios goles que ha hecho hoy. #Atleti pic.twitter.com/lAi8XqFCr6— Atlético de Madrid (@Atletico_MD) July 12, 2016