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Atlético face tough transfer decisions

Atleti’s early UCL exit may force the club’s financial hand.

Athletic Club v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid aren’t yet operating in the black despite their success over the past five years. The move to the Wanda Metropolitano has added to the club’s debt, which has been further exacerbated by elimination from this year’s Champions League. Though the registration ban meant Atlético hung on to most of its star players over the summer, this placed increased financial burden on the club, as they would have sold at least one top player in the summer had the ban not been imposed.

As a result of financial difficulties, Atleti will be selling players in January, and though they will not rid themselves of their most coveted talent at this time, an already thin squad will be cut down further as a result. The departures will be squad players who would have been sold last summer anyway, but therein lies another issue: a potential inability to replace them.

Most reporting seems to suggest Atlético will sell at least one or two of their strikers with Diego Costa’s registration imminent. Fernando Torres has been linked with a move away, but he may stay until the summer and receive a longer farewell. Luciano Vietto and Kevin Gameiro are likely to find themselves on the outs come January, as neither has produced consistently enough. Vietto was linked with moves to Sampdoria and Southampton in the summer that never materialized, but other clubs might show interest in a cheap deal for a striker who could succeed in the right setup.

Perhaps the most valuable player to be linked away is Šime Vrsaljko, who seems ever closer to Napoli as the days go by and he remains unpicked by Diego Simeone. The right back showed flashes of quality last season, but was derailed by his cruciate injury and has not sniffed a starting spot this season despite the lack of fullback depth. Los colchoneros would make profit on this deal, with the rumored price being in the €20-25m range, but this is a position that the club should address in January and definitely address in the summer.

Nico Gaitán may also move in January if a sufficient bid comes in, though Atlético should accept just about anything for the Argentine at this point.

Through these sales, Atlético will put euros in the bank and think ahead to a squad rejuvenation over the summer. Several players are approaching retirement, and inevitably some of the younger players will leave, chiefly Jan Oblak, Yannick Carrasco and Antoine Griezmann.

There’s no cause for great anguish with the players rumored to leave in January, as none are first team regulars. It does mean that Atlético have to pray to the football gods for no injuries to key players, as the squad will be even more down to bare bones in a couple of spots. Full backs are a desperate need, as are wingers, but it does not seem probable that Atleti will make any significant incoming transfers in January, so those problems will have to be addressed in the summer window.