Silly Season waits for no one. The January rumor mill is starting to turn, and even though Atletico Madrid have been disciplined with a transfer ban, Wednesday has seen the team linked with a departure and a major arrival
The Evening Standard reported Wednesday that Tottenham Hotspur have inquired about Nico Gaitan’s status. The 28-year-old winger, of course, has not featured as regularly as expected for Atletico this season; he’s registered just 355 Liga Santander minutes over nine appearances and scored two goals (both against Granada on Oct. 15). He’s featured just three times in the Champions League and his Copa del Rey minutes may be cut if Atleti face a strong opponent in the quarterfinals. The Evening Standard report states that Diego Simeone, and by extension the club, rejected Spurs’ advances, but Gaitan himself may want to move to London on loan - if Manolete in AS is to be believed. Manolete writes that Gaitan is interested in playing for a title contender (although Spurs are seven points off first-place Chelsea) and speculates that Simeone is keen to let his compatriot gain that experience.
However, that’s not the “bombazo” the rumor mill has churned out this week. No, that comes in the form of Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez. Chilean media say Atletico plan to exploit the standstill in Alexis’ renewal negotiations and have made him a “top priority” entering A Stadium Called Wanda next season. His signing, of course, is contingent on FIFA reducing Atleti’s transfer ban on appeal and possibly the sale of a player like Antoine Griezmann.
Gaitan first: Atletico are firmly in “win-now mode” and have rapidly shortened the leash when it comes to new signings. Examples: Mario Mandzukic was shipped out of town after three bad months early in 2015. Cristian Ansaldi and Guilherme Siqueira became afterthoughts in less than a year. Luciano Vietto labored through a single season before he was sent on loan. Jackson Martinez lasted a mere six months. With that in mind, it would not be surprising if Atleti were losing patience with Gaitan, who hasn’t dazzled when he’s played and has struggled to curry favor with Simeone. A loan or even permanent transfer may not be overly likely, but it can’t be ruled out if we are to consider the club’s pattern of behavior over the past two-plus years.
Alexis has been linked with Atletico in the past, and it would make sense for Cholo to like the ex-Barcelona ace; he’s blazing fast and a tireless worker. The 28-year-old isn’t as big or strong as Diego Costa, but he ticks every other box as the archetypal Simeone forward. He would be a terrific fit in Atleti’s system. It’s also very unlikely he joins, as he is believed to be happy at Arsenal despite the contract impasse, the Gunners are not obligated to sell him and his wage demands will be high. Expect to see some pretty big names linked with the Wanda ahead of its opening, but chances are Alexis will not be the big name making the move.