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Atlético conclude defensive rebuild with Hermoso, Trippier introductions

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Now it’s up to Diego Simeone to put it all together.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-ATLETICO GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid saw four defenders leave the club this summer — including the best academy-bred prospect their back line had seen for many years. Moreover, only one of this defensive quartet brought back a transfer fee. Nevertheless, the club acted quickly, prudently and decisively to build a brand-new defense before the first preseason match on July 20.

On Wednesday, Atlético announced Tottenham Hotspur right back Kieran Trippier’s arrival on a three-year contract. The 28-year-old becomes the first Englishman to don red and white in nearly 100 years. He comes off a difficult 2018/19 season — he helped Spurs to their first-ever Champions League final and started in the 2-0 loss to Liverpool, but he struggled for form after starring for his nation at last summer’s World Cup. Atleti completed the transfer for around €22 million.

Trippier will compete with Santiago Arias for starting right back duties, and there is some possibility Šime Vrsaljko gets in on that action when he returns from a knee injury in the fall.

Thursday brought another defensive reinforcement — Espanyol center back Mario Hermoso.

The Real Madrid academy graduate spent the past two seasons at Espanyol and enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2018/19. He was a driving force for the Catalans as they qualified for the Europa League — their first appearance in European competition in 12 years. The 24-year-old debuted for the national team as well.

Initially, Espanyol refused to negotiate with Atleti over Hermoso and pointed to his €40 million release clause. It appeared a deal was off the table earlier this month as Hermoso returned to training with the Parrots, but his club caved under pressure from a player set to enter the final year of his contract. The rojiblancos have now acquired the versatile, left-footed defender as Lucas Hernández’s direct replacement — and at a steep discount to boot.

In all, Atlético have incorporated four fresh faces for €87 million — or put another way, only €7 million more than Lucas’ release clause. Diego Simeone has received younger, faster and more attack-minded full backs. He can pair Hermoso with José Giménez in central defense to form a potentially lockdown pairing. And, of course, Jan Oblak remains in goal as the last resort. Not bad.