Atletico enter into the final phase of their campaign on Saturday when they face Malaga in La Rosaleda. They are closing in on Sevilla in third place and have a Champions League quarter-final to play against Leicester.
It looks as though Atletico will be able to overturn their transfer ban, or they are at least confident of doing so, and are facing into the last year of Diego Simeone’s era at the club. This could mean the end of several other players too including Antoine Griezmann among others.
Basically, while this year remains of paramount importance, next year really is the big one for Atletico, Simeone, Griezmann and the club as they start their new life in the Wanda Metropolitano. That being said, word continues to spread about who they want in the summer.
Here are three big names to keep an eye on:
The writing might have been on the wall for Kevin Gameiro when he first arrived in Madrid. Diego Simeone told him that he was his second option behind Diego Costa. It was going to take a spectacular effort from the French man to convince Simeone that he was the difference maker that Costa was, and that he has been searching for ever since his talisman left for Chelsea after their league title winning season of 2013-14.
Alexandre Lacazette is reportedly high on Atletico’s list and reports also suggest that they have even reached an agreement with him but will have to convince Lyon to sell him. They won’t even listen to a bid of less than €40 million and Atletico will have to sell to ensure they have the funds if the rumours are true that the French striker is also the target of some Premier League clubs, who can outbid LaLiga teams without ever even coming close to flinching at the price.
A midfielder who played at the Vicente Calderon for Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 of the Champions League and earned plaudits from many, Kampl is a do-it-all midfielder that could replace Gabi in Atletico’s midfield making the team 10 years younger and adding a verve to the centre of the park that some suggest Atleti have been missing. There is still a question mark over Koke’s best position (the pivot?) and whether he has the personality in that position to make it his own. If not, he is doomed or destined to spend next season out on the left, doing the legwork for a midfield of Kampl and another addition or even perhaps a younger player already in the squad like Ciao Henrique.
As you can see from the graphic above, Kampl sits somewhere right between what Gabi and Koke do in every category.
Nico Gaitan is playing for his future at the club and will have to show Simeone and the rojiblanco hierarchy something he has been unable to produce in his first nine months at the club. At this point, even consistency - another problem for Gaitan - won’t cut it. He is going to have to transform into a superhuman version of himself and score a handful of goals in the home stretch of the season or face a ‘one and done’ situation in Atletico like Mario Mandzukic and other less fortunate players who didn’t even get to one before they were done such as Jackson Martinez, Diogo Jota(?) and others.
Atletico need a wide player who can be left on the flank on their own, minding their own business and ensuring defensive cover. Juanfran will likely be on the bench full-time next season with Sime Vrsaljko as the number one right back and finding someone on the right that will combine well with the Croatian has to be a prime objecive for Simeone in the offseason.
Vitolo adds goals, can take players on in one-on-ones, assists, adds height in the air and works hard going backwards. With Monchi leaving Sevilla, expect a few of their top players to consider their options this summer and if Simeone and Atletico offer him Champions League football and a proper shot at a league title, don’t expect him to turn it down.