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 at presentation “I’m looking forward to learning the language straight away which is my first priority. The quicker I can do that, communicate with my coach and teammates, the better. I want to enjoy playing for Atletico and living in Madrid.”— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) July 18, 2019
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.
| Acuerdo con el @RCDEspanyol para el traspaso de @mariohermoso5.— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) July 18, 2019
El internacional español ha firmado con nuestro club para las 5 próximas temporadas
¡Bienvenido, Mario! ⚪
https://t.co/qNOx7k9fIR#AúpaAtleti #BienvenidoHermoso pic.twitter.com/7bKKE89FQk
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.