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The ones that got away: Atlético’s biggest transfer market misses

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A few players who could have made the biggest difference for Atlético Madrid.

Real Madrid v Real Sociedad - Copa del Rey: Quarter Final Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

We are living in unprecedented times, with several potential futures laying in front of us. Nobody has the answers to some of our most basic questions, and every day brings with it new information and potentialities. There is no football and there won’t be for a while — but the transfer mill is still turning and churning out rumours like never before.

With that uncertain future in mind and transfer plans changing quicker than ever, the team at Into the Calderón put together a list of players who slipped through the net. These are players who were linked with Atlético Madrid but for one reason or another never arrived. This is who each writer thinks could have made the biggest impact.

Marco Reus Pedro

Jeremy Beren

My initial choice was Reus, who would have been on paper an amazing addition to the reigning league champions in 2014. But persistent injury struggles have overshadowed the winger’s elite talent over the years, something that would have been a major problem for this team. And it wasn’t clear if Diego Simeone wanted the Borussia Dortmund star anyway.

A player Simeone did want was Barcelona’s Pedro Rodríguez. The World Cup winner and three-time Champions League winner moved to Chelsea in 2015, but he would have been a perfect Arda Turan replacement. Simeone has tried and failed to make such a player out of Óli Torres and Thomas Lemar (I don’t count Yannick Carrasco, as his player profile is very different).

FBL-EUR-C1-ATLETICO-DORTMUND Photo credit should read OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Pedro — a tricky dribbler, slick passer and hard worker who could play all across the midfield — would have fit like a glove in Simeone’s 4-4-2. His injury record was spotless until the past year-plus, and he may be out of place once Chelsea’s rebuild really commences this summer (or whenever the window reopens). Would Atlético return for him? Probably not. But for the better part of a decade, Pedro was the type of player who could have inspired Atleti to even greater heights — and he went for only €30 million.

Lautaro Martínez

Adam Saladino

Just a few seasons ago, the deal for Lautaro Martínez — “The Bull” — looked imminent. Atlético had agreed to pay his €9 million release clause and negotiated a contract with the player, but after Racing Club de Avellaneda bumped up his price to €18 million, negotiations came to a screeching halt. Just months later, Martínez left, for Inter Milan in a €25 million deal.

Now 22, the Argentine performed quite well as Romelu Lukaku’s partner in Italy. Prior to the shutdown, Martínez stood as one of Serie A’s better goal scorers with 11 strikes and has gained a lot of continental interest — Chelsea, Manchester City and most recently Barcelona have been linked with him, and the Catalans reportedly willing to dish out an extremely lucrative contract of €10 million a year.

It is easy to wonder how Lautaro could have helped with Atlético’s desperate need for goals. He is a pacy and strong striker with a knack for hitting the back of the net — just look at his goal against Diego Simeone’s men in the 2018 International Champions Cup.

FC Internazionale Training Session Photo by Claudio Villa - Inter/Inter via Getty Images

Alexandre Lacazette

Rob Walker

The summer of 2017 provided one of the more confusing reported transfers, as Alex Lacazette was all but announced as an Atlético player before the club was banned from registering players until January 2018. This caused the transfer to fall through, as Lacazette was unwilling to be in limbo for six months. As a result, Atlético signed Diego Costa while Lacazette moved to north London.

It is fair to say that neither Costa nor Lacazette has set the world alight since those moves. Costa has been abysmal and hurt consistently, and Lacazette has yet to score 15 Premier League goals in a season.

With that being said, the rumors of Lacazette eventually making the move to Madrid persist. In some ways, it makes sense — Lacazette’s grinding forward play would likely appeal to Simeone. There is a reasonable argument to be made that Atlético’s style of play would suit the Frenchman more than the more free-flowing style employed by Arsenal. The problem in making the deal happen would be Costa, as Atleti could hardly justify having that cost around their neck and shelling out for another big-name, highly-paid striker.

Arsenal FC v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

James Rodríguez

Robbie Dunne

I’m just here for the narrative. Well, mostly the narrative.

Watching Atlético...can be frustrating. So often I have watched them and walked away thinking if they had a little more creativity, they could be considerably more dangerous. James Rodríguez would have solved all their creativity problems in one fell swoop.

There seems to be a re-writing of history when it comes to James. He has become a pariah at Real Madrid and while he was good at Bayern Munich, that never felt like a perfect marriage either. But when he is central to a team’s plans and has both his own confidence and the confidence of the manager, he can be lethal.

It would have been incredible to see a former galactico flourishing at Atlético. He could have been the focal point while João Félix was adapting to life in LaLiga. It would have been a massive task getting the two into the same team for sure, but on big nights when Atlético tend to lack that little extra in the final third, James could have been a solution.