Atlético Madrid’s defense held up once again as one of Europe’s finest units in 2017/18. Despite entering a transitional period, Jan Oblak’s evolution into a goalkeeping beast was the main reason for Atlético’s continued clean sheet collection. In addition, José Giménez and Lucas Hernández took concrete steps to realize their massive potential, fortifying a defense which occasionally started three players aged 32 or older.
On to the ratings!
Axel Werner/Miguel Ángel Moyá: N/A
The latter departed for Real Sociedad in February to become their starting goalkeeper. Moyá was the Copa del Rey keeper once more this season and really struggled in Atlético’s quarterfinal tie against Sevilla, which saw the Andalusians advance 5-2 on aggregate.
Werner stepped in to play the Europa League Round of 16 tie against Lokomotiv Moscow in addition to a late-April win at Alavés. The Argentine conceded just once in those three games and will likely be sent on loan for the 2018/19 season as Atlético look to get him more minutes.
Jan Oblak: 8.1
Took that next step this season and became Europe’s finest keeper. The 25-year-old (he’s still only 25!) won a third consecutive Zamora Trophy for conceding the fewest goals in LaLiga. It’d take too long to list all the times he saved Atlético’s bacon this season: the saved Aritz Aduriz penalty in Bilbao. Frantic last-minute stops to preserve a 1-0 win in Vigo. A stunning parry on a Sergio Ramos free kick in April’s Madrid Derby. His heroic display at Emirates Stadium. He’s the best, and Atleti need to make sure his future at the club is sorted.
Carlos Isaac: N/A
Played just the one match against Deportivo La Coruña on April 1. The 19-year-old right back got over an hour on his debut, but it’s uncertain if Simeone sees a future for him in Madrid — especially as the club is set to purchase a more experienced full back this summer.
Stefan Savić: 6.2
A stop-start season, one that became pretty frustrating to watch as Simeone insisted on playing him in many of Atlético’s biggest fixtures. Atlético conceded more shots on average and mustered just 11 wins from the 21 games Savić started next to Diego Godín — who is essentially an older, more tactically astute version of Savić. The 27-year-old has obvious issues holding his position and recovering when he’s caught out, yet he logged 3,000 minutes anyway. There’s always a chance he figures it out as he gets closer to 30, but how long can Atleti wait?
Šime Vrsaljko: 6.8
Didn’t take the anticipated step forward following a promising debut season in Spain. Vrsaljko more or less won back his place in the XI thanks to a great run of form in December and scored himself a renewal in February. But the rest of his season was inconsistent — he missed big games with minor injuries, his crossing and his work rate weren’t always up to snuff when he did play. He endured a particularly poor end to the year, as he was sent off 10 minutes into the Europa League semifinal and was hauled off at halftime of the final. Despite that new contract, the Croatian’s future isn’t exactly secure.
Juanfran managed to find a happy medium of sorts in 2017/18. His performances in the Europa League and against LaLiga’s bottom half reminded us why he was a starter on Vicente del Bosque’s final Spain teams — but when thrown into action against higher-level opposition (Chelsea in September), he looked his age and then some. Luckily, Juanfran’s always-reliable decision-making and ball control shouldn’t leave him in his age-34 season even as he continues to decline physically. Fitness permitting, Simeone will still count on him to spell Vrsaljko.
Filipe Luís: 7.1
Filipe fought off Father Time once more this season...until he broke his leg making a sliding challenge in frigid Moscow. Amazingly, he returned for the final two weeks, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 win at Getafe (which basically wrapped up second place). When he played, he stayed super consistent statistically — he ranked among LaLiga’s best in tackles per 90 minutes (4.5) and he’s still probably Atleti’s most consistent playmaker. But he turns 33 in August, he’ll be in Russia for the World Cup and he broke his dang leg two months ago. It’s not hard to understand why los rojiblancos want a little insurance at left back.
Diego Godín: 7.1
Another year older, another year wiser and another year as Atlético’s defensive leader. Yes, this back line unmistakably still belongs to Godín, whose statistics remained remarkably consistent in an age-32 season that saw two younger central defenders knock ever louder on his door. Once again, he averaged around five clearances, two tackles and better than two interceptions per 90 minutes. But he played his fewest minutes in the league since 2011/12 — with Giménez and Lucas coming into their own, his playing time could take another cut in 2018/19.
José Giménez: 7.3
This was the Uruguayan’s breakthrough season, one that should establish him as Godín’s successor and a pillar for the future. When the Uruguayans started together, los rojiblancos rang up a 12-2-2 record with just 10 goals conceded and a +29 goal difference. Giménez mostly did away with the headless chicken act of years past, melding that insane athletic prowess with a better reading of the game (as I wrote here). If he doesn’t enter next season as a starter, it will mean he’s been sold.
Lucas Hernández: 7.6
Despite Giménez’s newfound reliability, one reason his name keeps popping up in transfer rumors is this 22-year-old still managed to one-up him. Lucas filled in at left back when Filipe broke his leg — while he didn’t replicate the Brazilian’s attacking flair, he made up for it by being a lockdown one-on-one defender, using his pace and intelligence to win tricky individual battles (and make game-saving tackles). The France international got more than double the minutes he received in 2016/17 and grew into a terrific all-around defender, despite circumstances dictating that he play more at left back than center back. After 40-plus appearances and nearly 3,500 minutes in all comps, it’s hard to imagine that he’s not an automatic selection most weeks in 2018/19.
Who was Atlético’s best defensive player in 2017/18?
This poll is closed