Ángel Correa is running out of chances to prove himself — if he hasn’t already.
It’s fitting that the 24-year-old’s season ended with an immature, petulant 51st minute red card at the Ciutat de València. Correa has failed to develop into a versatile, polished — or at least consistent — attacking threat despite surpassing 100 Rojiblanco appearances.
Forty percent of Correa’s five goals from 47 appearances in 2018/19 came in the truncated Copa del Rey run. He created only five goals from 36 Liga appearances (over 1,900 minutes). Without that end product and a penchant for ill-tempered play — we can’t forget the penalty he carelessly gave away at Juventus — it remains unclear what value Correa provides.
Radio station SER reported this week that Correa is unhappy with his minutes and may look for assurances on his future this summer. No such assurances should be forthcoming based on the back of many colorless performances this season — and instead, players like Borja Garcés (when fit), Víctor Mollejo and Saturday goalscorer Sergio Camello should be handed chances to impress.
This defense will not be easy to replace.
Okay, so this isn’t necessarily something this game alone taught us, but it’s worth a shout as the summer transfer window looms. The search for a suitable Antoine Griezmann substitute faces inherent difficulties, but to construct a defense as enduring as this one will be a great challenge for Diego Simeone.
Juanfran, Diego Godín and Filipe Luís played together for eight-and-a-half years — bar 2014/15, when Filipe decided to have a grand old time in the Premier League. That trio steered Atlético to eight trophies in that span and Atleti have conceded the fewest goals in LaLiga six times in Simeone’s seven full seasons. The lads may have lost a step in the past couple years and fresh legs have been needed at the back for a while, but only time will tell if Simeone and sporting director Andrea Berta can rebuild adequately following the stalwarts’ final match on Saturday.
Despite many obvious problems, Atlético have remained remarkably consistent in LaLiga.
Many things went wrong this season for Simeone’s men. They were out of every competition by mid-March and were forced to survive over 50 different injuries over their 51-game season. Fitness, transfer rumors and Griezmann’s contract all contributed to discontent in the Atlético dressing room and the team scored only 55 league goals despite featuring an expensively-assembled attack. The promise shown by August’s Super Cup withered in the winter months, and the prospect of hosting a Champions League final disappeared in Turin.
Yet, the Cholismo consistency continued:
Simeone guided an aging, stagnating squad to another comfortable top three finish — still well behind Barcelona but eight points clear of Real Madrid. He often put together patchwork starting lineups which required tremendous sacrifice from certain players (see converted left back Saúl) and usually had little choice in the matter. By and large, Atlético beat who they were supposed to beat, with just four losses to clubs outside the top three.
This season saw some of the ugliest football in Cholo’s tenure — and some of that falls on the coach for his conservative tactics, the rest on the board for failing to bring in enough impact signings. This summer will be a chance to rectify the latter, and the former will never truly go away. But there’s something to be said for Simeone’s leadership, the winning values he transmits, and of course the steady results that come with it — seven straight seasons of 22-plus wins, 75-plus points and Champions League qualification.