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Atletico’s next number nine: Analyzing 3 of the best options

They are looking for a new striker but who will it be?

Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup Final 2016 Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images

Diego Simeone and Atlético Madrid are focused fully on trying finally to sign their goalscorer for next season. It is probably the key signing required to continue competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid and aspire once again to win the deeply-coveted Champions League.

In this sense, Alberto Barbero pointed out in the pages of Marca the players for whom Atlético have made formal offers. It appears the next number nine will come from the following trio.

Below you can find some information that might be helpful when analyzing which player could be the ideal fit for Atleti.

Diego Costa

The Spanish-Brazilian striker left Atlético nearly two years ago and has not been able to show himself consistently since as that lethal forward that took Los Colchoneros to the Lisbon final. Costa endured a disappointing season in 2015-16 both personally and at club level, where Chelsea cratered and finished midtable under the coaching of José Mourinhoand Guus Hiddink. Chelsea’s #19 contributed a total amount of 16 goals (12 in the Premier League) which is his lowest tally since the 2011-12 season when he played for Rayo Vallecano. At this point, it appears Costa needs Simeone and Simeone needs Costa.


Cholo’s Atleti archetype: Costa accurately represents the ideal striker that Cholo needs in Atlético: fast, powerful, and able to create beneficial situations for his side even when 50 meters away from the opponent area. Costa remains one of the best players in more than 110 years of Atleti history, and his 2013-14 season (36 goals in 52 games) remains epic. He was a true nightmare for rival defenders and allowed Atleti to create opportunities even from excessively deep areas of defense, receiving fouls to take advantage of set pieces or reaching the rival area with the ball in his feet. There is no doubt: Costa was the best striker Cholo could have had.

Fast adaptation: Costa knows well Atlético well and vice versa. Although los Rojiblancos don’t play the same way they did in 13-14, the forward would have no problems adapting to the new requirements that Simeone has. What’s clear also is the 27-year-old needs to be in a perfect physical state and Profe Ortega is the man to help him devise a good preseason routine.


Injuries: Probably the main reason why he has not be able to succeed in London. Costa has had recurring muscular injuries, particularly in his hamstrings, since early 2014 and the nagging fitness issues have plagued him at Chelsea. He used to start seasons playing in a spectacular way but this pace disappeared last year. This is an important factor to take into account when deciding to spend €50m and Costa's muscular problems seem hard to solve.

Wage: But Costa did improve somewhat with his move to Chelsea and was the economic aspect. The striker saw his Atlético wages doubled or even tripled with his arrival in London. His current wages are most likely out of the club's reach. Thus, Costa would have to do his part and reduce his wages to return to the Champions League finalists.

Gonzalo Higuaín

The Argentine striker was unable to complete a spectacular season by getting a title with the national team. Higuaín was simply brilliant in 2015-16, scoring a record-breaking 36 goals in 35 games and leading Napoli to second place in Serie A. His brother and agent has confirmed, however, that the intention of the player is to not renew his contract in Naples and the rumors of his departure have increased. According to several reports of Spanish and Italian descent, Atlético have formally submitted a bid of more than €60 million for the ex-Real Madrid striker.


Capo Canioneri: Look at the goalscoring figures that "Pipita" achieved this season and it's pretty obvious that the Napoli striker would be a good candidate to take over as Antoine Griezmann's new strike partner. Higuaín has improved physically and mentally with the arrival of coach Maurizio Sarri and is at the peak of his mental and physical powers. Throw in some Liga BBVA experience and the 28-year-old might be the safest bet of the three.

Proven his value to a title contender: His time in Naples could be finished possibly by the ambition of the player himself to return to a team competing to win trophies. Napoli are a strong team with a sound infrastructure, but Juventus' domestic stranglehold makes it difficult for other teams to take a title or cup challenge into spring. Atlético, meanwhile, usually play for titles against the two best teams in the world and Higuaín may love nothing more than to exploit the situation to prove that Real were wrong when they chose Karim Benzema over him.


Dependent: Based on his style of play, Higuaín may be the worst fit in Simeone's system. El Pipa is not a forward as fast as the other two candidates and one could say that he is more dependent on passes from his teammates to score or at least create chances. Thus, one could guess that would be hard for him to break from remote areas to the opponent's 18-yard box for several minutes in some games.

Bad luck in big games: This is something that has been brought up time and time again, especially in relation to the player's performances for Argentina. Higuaín is not the type of player who does not appear or go unnoticed during the important games. Pipita always appears in this kind of match, but often for the wrong reasons: in each of Argentina's last three finals, Higuaín has bottled clear chances at goal as his side were shut out in all three finals. It would be interesting to see what would happen to Higuían playing the final of Champions League with Atlético; it may mean the end of the jinx of both.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

The 2015-16 season saw the French-born Gabonese striker shoot his way to stardom. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel to the bench of Borussia Dortmund has managed to settle Aubameyang in the center forward position, which helped him to accrue 39 goals and 12 assists in 49 appearances. The player has already stated his desire is to someday play in La Liga and thus be closer to his family in Avila (near Madrid). Reports say that the German team has already rejected an offer of about €60 million from Atlético, but that won't stop them from trying...


Style: Where Mario Mandzukic and Jackson Martínez failed were in how they played. A forward in Simeone's system needs to be able to play beyond the opponent's 18 to succeed. Sometimes Simeone's lads defend with nine players in their own half and need a player to serve as a lightning-quick outlet on the counterattack. Well, Aubameyang would have no trouble adjusting to that role with his speed (he is one of the fastest strikers in the world) and ability to create chemistry and dribble past defenders. We should also take into account his versatility, as he can play both as a forward and as a winger (left or right) in a 4-3-3 system.

Younger and potential: Although there is not a big difference, he is the youngest of the three at 36 years old. Aubameyang has played just three years in an elite team like Dortmund and that's the reason why we can understand that he still has capacity to continue improving. It is one of the main features of Simeone as coach: extracting every drop of potential out of his players. The most recent cases are those of Griezmann and Saúl, who have managed to be rated among the best players in the world in their respective positions thanks (partly) to the Argentine manager.


Character: The experience of the last 5 years has shown that to play at Atlético you have to be a fighter. In this sense it is where Aubameyang has a greater disadvantage compared to the other two competitors. Aubameyang would have to adapt to the mentality of a team where you have to fight for every ball and in which there is no star. The star is the team. The Gabonese is not a player with a bad attitude but he would have to assimilate into the team and the mindset that Simeone strikers are the first players to defend when the pressure rises.

African Cup of Nations: Another aspect to consider is that Aubameyang would be lost part of the season because between December and February the greatest African national team competition is disputed. Aubameyang would have to leave with his national team for nearly a month in an important stretch of the season.