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Contracts in the Time of Coronavirus: Forwards and a stray defender

Atlético haven’t scored a ton of goals in this paused season, but the flexibility to shuffle the striker deck may not be there.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Sevilla FC - La Liga Photo by Alejandro Rios/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
Once more, with feeling: Robbie Dunne’s excellent salary table.

The Brain Fart Department

Santiago Arias

Age 28

Contract To 2023 (finalized July 31, 2018)

Need a renewal? Certainly not.

What the future holds It will be anywhere but in Madrid. Diego Simeone has never taken to Arias’ game — the Colombia international has endured long gaps between starts over the past two seasons and has made just 44 appearances since his arrival. Arias has rung up only 550 league minutes in 2019/20 as Kieran Trippier became first-choice upon landing in the capital and Šime Vrsaljko impressed to begin 2020.

Arias is a fine offensive fullback and will likely succeed at his next stop, but he became an Atlético afterthought months ago.

The anchors

Ángel Correa

Age 25

Contract length To 2024 (Sept. 26, 2018)

Need a renewal? MAYBE slightly higher salary — though it may not be economically viable.

What the future holds Correa — oh so close to an AC Milan move nine months ago — has finally made good on his potential and become this attack’s leading light. AC10 rediscovered the aggressiveness that made him a threat in his first two seasons and has created a goal every other game in LaLiga this term. He’s responsible for more than one-third of Atlético Madrid’s league goals.

The Argentine has the security of a long-term contract and perhaps has earned a raise based on his contributions this season. He’s not going anywhere.

Liverpool FC v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Álvaro Morata

Age 27

Contract length To 2022 (finalized July 21, 2017 with Chelsea)

Need a renewal? Atlético will officially hand Morata a fresh deal once the club takes up its €50 million-plus purchase option on July 1 (or whenever possible). His Chelsea wages work out to roughly €5 million a year.

What the future holds Former academy kid Morata has expressed his love for Atlético basically whenever he’s been able — and has even expressed regret at suiting up for Real Madrid. The club’s investment in him is significant. Assuming his hamstrings are intact, he will be the first-choice number nine next season and beyond.

Yes, Morata’s inconsistency can be maddening, and he needs to find an understanding with João Félix at some point. But when Álvargol shows up, the only player who can stop him is...himself.

The wild card

João Félix

Age 20

Contract length To 2026 (July 3, 2019)

Need a renewal? No, but he might in a year...

What the future holds ...if he emerges as a star. Félix has battled through an uneven, injury-plagued debut season on the other side of the Iberian peninsula. Following a month-long layoff, the kid contributed two goals and an assist in wins over Villarreal and Liverpool, and a home draw against Sevilla. It remains to be seen how he will respond to a layoff brought about by a global health crisis, but last spring he caught fire to help Benfica to a league title.

If Félix finishes the year on a personal high and gains a full understanding of Cholo’s methods next season, rumors will return. If he doesn’t, he will be called a flop and rumors will return. Atlético could point to the player’s reported €350 million release clause if the former scenario occurs, but Jorge Mendes can pry him free if he wants. To say “that situation centered on the club’s record signing is worth watching” is an understatement.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Sevilla FC - La Liga Photo by DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The “Should Be on the Exit Ramp but Won’t Leave” Department

Diego Costa

Age 61 31

Contract length To 2021 (Jan. 1, 2018)

Need a renewal? Lol

What the future holds It’ll be in Madrid for another year. Costa is a huge drain on the club’s wage bill. His salary alone kneecaps Atlético’s financial flexibility in the next transfer window or two, especially if the club can’t move on from Vitolo too.

The deadly combination of poor performance and excessive salary has sunk Costa’s value into the transfer market’s benthic zone. He would have to cut his weekly pay by some amount to make any transfer work — on either side of the Atlantic. Besides, Simeone lavishes praise on the former star striker every chance he gets, and he will probably start him on a few occasions the rest of this season and into the next. That’s if Costa’s healthy, of course. Which he is not. And has not been for years.

Atlético are just gonna have to ride out this one.

The exit ramp

Ivan Šaponjić

Age 22

Contract length To 2022 (July 8, 2019)

Need a renewal? Yes. Ten-year contract. Sign him up.

What the future holds I don’t think Simeone has ever rated a player lower than he rates Šaponjić. Not Josuha Guilavogui, not Alessio Cerci, not Gelson Martins. It’s Ivan, who has played 62 minutes in 2019/20 and didn’t even debut until Jan. 23.