The summer of 2019 was tough for Atlético Madrid as so many star players left. Diego Godín? Gone. Juanfran? Gone. Antoine Griezmann? Sold. Rodri? Sold. Lucás Hernández? Him, too. Filipe Luís? Off to Brazil to win the Copa Libertadores.
But one of Atlético’s top players decided to renew his contract and stay. That man was Jan Oblak, but now I’m worried about him.
Oblak recently opened up in an interview at a Puma event, and some of his comments make clear that he has thought a lot about his future — even after he penned a new contract in April that runs to 2023 and has a release clause of €120 million.
“I’ve always said that releases clauses don’t mean so much,” the goalkeeper said. “If the club wants you to stay and you want to stay then you’ll stay. If the club doesn’t want you to stay and you don’t want to stay then you go.
“My future will depend on both parties. It’ll all be fine if we keep having the same ambitions. The most important thing for me right now is to win trophies. I think every player is motivated to win trophies.”
The Slovenian repeated several times that he wants to win silverware and he also admitted his concern as he watched one teammate after another depart during the summer months.
“There was a moment when I asked myself ‘what’s going on here?’,” he added. “The people inside the club told me that the project was going to continue the same. In the end, many players left and you wonder what’s happening. But I was told that the plan is the same and that we’re going to fight for titles.”
Oblak couldn’t have been much clearer. He wants to win trophies. Now 26 years old, he is likely entering his prime (believe it or not knowing how good he is) and wants to make the most of it. To date, the world-class shot-stopper has won just three trophies at Atlético in five and a half seasons, and none were the major trophies for which the club aims. He has won one Europa League, one UEFA Super Cup and one Spanish Super Cup, but he didn’t play a single minute of the latter.
In the same way Griezmann’s main reason for departing was sporting rather than financial, there could come a moment where Oblak seriously considers moving on in order to have a greater chance to win the biggest trophies. It seems he has held such concerns before, yet he signed his new contract in April believing Atlético’s project was growing and growing. By this logic, a poor start to the 2019/20 season — with just five wins from the past 16 games despite just 12 goals conceded across those 16 games — will have set the alarm bells off in Oblak’s head. He may wonder whether the summer’s recruitment drive really has the team on the up-and-up.
It’ll be difficult for Atlético to win any silverware in this year of transition, and surely Oblak knows that. But silverware lacking, Los Rojiblancos’ main objective for the rest of the season has to be about convincing the player that there is a bright future ahead.
If there is a land of trophies clearly on the horizon by next May, then Oblak will likely stick around. But if all he can see is an iceberg, he may decide to jump ship. Several of Europe’s top clubs would love to have him, and Atlético have to assure and reassure Oblak that they can compete with the continent’s giants for several years to come.