Atlético Madrid are gearing up for a new season, so we should do the same.
Atlético haven’t made any significant signings, but the transfer market is heating up elsewhere in Europe and Los Rojiblancos have recently been (tenuously) linked with Lucas Torreira from Arsenal, among others. Diego Simeone will be pushing for signings but we aren’t sure what position the club will prioritise, although midfield is seen as a priority. The squad is not currently good enough to fight for trophies and Simeone will be aware of that. They didn’t put up a fight for LaLiga last season before being knocked out of the Champions League by RB Leipzig in the quarter-final.
So where do Atlético need to invest? We will start by taking a look at the goalkeepers and defenders.
Atlético have arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in Jan Oblak. The Slovenian played 4,445 minutes to Antonio Adán’s 145 last season. Oblak was linked, spuriously it must be said, to Chelsea — but they have signed a keeper in Edouard Mendy from Rennes. In any case, Oblak’s release clause is €120 million and nobody is spending that money on a keeper this summer. He should stay put for now and Atlético can breathe easy for another year over their number one.
That said, the 27-year-old’s contract expires in 2023 and he wants trophies. Atlético have not been able to match his ambition in recent seasons and there is a constant tension over his future being played out in the press.
The team also got a lot younger at the position this summer with the signing of 24-year-old Ivo Grbić from NK Lokomotiva Zagreb; Adán’s contract expired and left the club. Grbić is the only new signing of the summer and it could be a signing made with one eye on a future without Oblak. The “will he or won’t he renew” with Oblak does not look like an imminent problem, and Atlético are in fine shape at the position heading into the 2020/21 season.
Renan Lodi is 22 and settled nicely into life at left-back last year, but Atlético still haven’t figured where to find competition for the Brazilian.
Lodi became Simeone’s first choice left-back from the start after Lucas Hernández left for Bayern Munich last summer. Saúl Ñíguez played in that role when Lodi wasn’t available, but the lack of competition will only hurt the burgeoning star’s development, and therefore Atlético during the 2020-21 season. It also takes Ñíguez out of the equation in midfield when he is forced to play there.
The good news is Manu Sánchez is in the squad — for now. The 20-year-old academy player’s situation could change if an offer comes in that will see him play more minutes elsewhere — a loan to Osasuna was apparently close recently. Atlético obviously want to upgrade at the position and are looking at Mathias Oliviera from Getafe, if they can get the finances right. They have also explored the possibility of signing FC Porto’s Alex Telles from according to reports. This is a position that needs attention in the coming weeks.
Right-back is a difficult position to play at Atlético. Ever since Juanfran made it his own, Simeone has struggled to find a replacement. It appeared Kieran Trippier would fill the Juanfran-shaped hole there, but his good form trailed off at the end of last season.
Šime Vrsaljko and Santiago Arias remain in the squad. One of either Trippier, Arias or Vrsaljko will have to leave to balance the squad and bring in funds to balance Atlético’s books. Arias could be the man to leave, as the Colombia international takes up one of the team’s non-European places. That spot could be earmarked for Nehuén Pérez if he doesn’t go out on loan again. Atlético currently have a number of good right-backs, but no excellent right-backs. With the club’s economic situation in a fragile state, it’s a position that does not require immediate attention.
In theory, Atlético have world class depth at centre-back. It’s as good as any in LaLiga.
Pep Guardiola wants José María Giménez (Sevilla’s Jules Kounde has also been linked, and would make more sense), and there are reports that the Manchester City manager will do what it takes to get him. The Uruguayan’s release clause is a stumbling block, but Atlético might be glad to see that money or negotiate a lower fee. City have already offered almost €90 million for the player, but his release clause is €120 million.
Nehuén Pérez is a young Uruguayan who could fill in, and there is an ongoing debate amongst fans over the pros and cons of a Giménez deal. Some would be glad to send him to the Premier League if it meant the arrival of a top class striker (hola, Luis Suárez!)
Meanwhile, 30-year-old Felipe is a certified starter while Stefan Savić remains in Simeone’s plans. Mario Hermoso, who can slot in at left-back, is the only left-footed centre-back in the squad but even his future is up in the air after an unsettled first season. His debut season at the club didn’t go as planned, but himself and Felipe could be a force this season if played together.
Felipe, Giménez, Savic and Hermoso all played over 1,000 minutes. Hermoso, the least-used centre-back, still made 15 starts. Simeone might be suffering from the tyranny of choice with no true hierarchy. That might be a good thing but the position can be one that doesn’t respond well to rotation. That said, the players are there and Simeone will be happy with the experience and talent in the bunch. Therefore, the only activity we are likely to see in that are is a departure.