The last few years have been challenging for Atlético Madrid, as numerous legends and key squad players departed. The 2019/20 season represented a year of wholesale change and new blood for a squad that had mostly stagnated.
The extraordinarily-promising João Félix (and the huge outlay for him) was the headliner and the face of this transition, replacing Antoine Griezmann as the Hollywood attacking player of the team. Other high-price or profile purchases were made, notably Felipe, Mario Hermoso, Marcos Llorente, Renan Lodi and Kieran Trippier. The two Brazilians were seen more as gambles — an older, experienced Brazilian defender, and a young, inexperienced Brazilian defender. Both have proven to be astute buys.
In terms of assessing the Atlético rebuild, only Hermoso can be truly viewed as a disappointment. And even considering that, he is a 25-year-old center back who has his best years ahead of him. Perhaps Félix not setting the world alight is disappointing, but ultimately, he is only 20 years old and in just his second season as a professional, first-team footballer.
Atlético’s goal this year was not a LaLiga title — it was a successful rebuild and Champions League qualification. Both goals have been accomplished. There are still questions about the squad in terms of the “striker of the future,” an unsolved riddle since Diego Costa left in 2014 and one even the man himself hasn’t answered. The midfield also remains a question mark, with Koke, Saúl and Thomas all qualified starters, but not necessarily effective together. Llorente has made a huge impression in the second half of the season, establishing himself as a bonafide starter and potential star. Throughout the last few seasons, all Atleti fans have seen the ineffectiveness of the four central midfielder strategy, but with four quality CM’s, Diego Simeone is bound to have a headache and likely select all four at one time.
The next question is two-fold. Are Atlético capable of winning this weird, COVID-19 Champions League? And how does this team need to improve to win LaLiga in 2020-21?
The answer to the first question is much more difficult. Since the restart, Atleti have been brilliant. Historically, Atleti are far superior in cup competitions than in league play. If this team can continue its strong restart into the CL, they should be one of the favored teams, having knocked out defending champions Liverpool.
Next year, Los Rojiblancos need to address their winger situation, which is currently fairly dire, with Yannick Carrasco and habitual under-performers Vitolo and Thomas Lemar the only options out wide. None inspire huge confidence. Simeone desires a player like Arda Turan, who can both track back and inspire the attack with charging runs. Lemar was once thought to be that player, but it has not turned out that way. What Atleti truly need is a star winger, capable of performing both roles.
As far as which striker to go forward with, Álvaro Morata had an up-and-down year, with massive hot streaks and massive troughs. Costa is clearly not the same player, so there needs to be another option. Because of the large financial investment dedicated to those two players, it is hard to see the club moving on from either unless an offer comes in that is financially lucrative, which seems unlikely considering the global pandemic.
But ultimately, this season has to be seen as a success. Atlético have found strong building blocks for the future while managing Champions League football yet again. Whether or not next year will be a title-challenging season remains to be seen, as it mainly depends on recruitment.
Are you pleased with how Atlético’s LaLiga season went?
This poll is closed
Yes, the club had to replace several key players, and achieved its top objective by finishing third
No, Atlético wasted a good start to the league season and finished too far behind Real Madrid and Barcelona
Unsure, check back with me after the Champions League concludes