Similar to Koke, the unceasing, uncaring football calendar has affected Kieran Trippier, who has started for Atlético Madrid whenever available and helped England to the EURO 2020 final over the summer.
Perhaps as a result, Trippier has been badly out of form at club level since the 2021/22 season began. He’s been unable to play extensive minutes with favorite target Marcos Llorente, and he is now recovering from a grade III shoulder sprain that could keep him out the rest of 2021. The returning Llorente and surprise goalscorer Šime Vrsaljko will compete for minutes with Trippier shelved.
Trippier recently spoke to Sid Lowe about his desire to return to the Premier League before he retires, as his Spanish adventure has successfully revitalized his career. Manchester United and newly-rich Newcastle are rumored to hold an interest in signing the 31-year-old, whose contract is up in 2023.
In a big blow to the English tabloids, Atlético held firm on Trippier’s €40 million release clause over the summer. But it is probable Atleti will sanction the player’s exit next June if a buyer’s offer comes close to what the club paid Tottenham for him in summer 2019.
So, more likely than not, Trippier’s time in Madrid will come to an end in 2022. Let’s use this opportunity to workshop a possible replacement for the Englishman.
Here’s the ideal criteria, measured per 90 minutes:
- Elite final third passing ability, including passes into the penalty area
- High-level progressive passing and progressive passing distance
- Able to generate shot- or goal-creating actions consistently from a wide position
- Aerial duel proficiency
These are Trippier’s best qualities — qualities Atlético surely will look for in his potential replacement. And with these characteristics in mind, here are five right-backs who might just fit the bill.
(Statistics cited are courtesy of fbref.com.)
Atlético nearly signed Çelik from French champions Lille in August, but couldn’t get the deal over the line. The two clubs have a good relationship following the Ivo Grbić loan agreement, and Çelik’s asking price is maybe the most reasonable here — Atleti were set to sign him in a deal worth less than €10 million.
The 24-year-old Çelik is becoming a mainstay in the Turkey national team and enjoyed a solid season at Lille in 2020/21. He is comparable to Trippier in accumulating progressive passing yards and delivering the ball into the final third (3.92 passes into this part of the pitch), though Trippier created shots at a far-higher rate last season. He is competent in the air and likes to switch the play, similar to Trippier.
Çelik’s contract expires in 2023. Lille are struggling this year after a talent exodus, and a swap deal involving Grbić’s rights might benefit all parties.
League-leading Real Sociedad’s defense has two players who should prove interesting to Atlético — star center-back Robin Le Normand and late-bloomer Gorosabel, whom La Real were long grooming to replace Álvaro Odriozola.
Gorosabel properly broke into the first team at Reale Arena last season, and now he’s averaging better than five progressive carries per 90. His passing is accurate (84 percent overall) and is traveling a greater distance than ever before this season. The 25-year-old can also slide into Trippier’s role as a dead-ball specialist.
It must be noted La Real have done a great job nurturing and hanging onto its academy graduates, and the txuri-urdin have Gorosabel tied up on a contract to 2024.
The Portuguese is statistically an excellent defender who presses all over the pitch, and he likes to creates openings and shots with his dribbling. He’d represent a change from the more-methodical Trippier, who thrives when he can fling the ball vertically and have a teammate go get it.
Ricardo is still in his prime at 28 years old, and his deal with Leicester runs until 2023. If extension talks don’t go anywhere, he could be an unexpected option for Atlético.
You might remember Porro from his time at Girona, when the Catalan club played in LaLiga between 2017 and 2019. Manchester City scooped up the 22-year-old following Girona’s relegation — but he has been starring on loan at Sporting Clube de Portugal for the past two seasons and is set to sign there on a permanent deal.
Despite his tender age, Porro is regarded as one of the best full-backs in Portugal, and he debuted for the Spanish national team in March. He can play as a traditional full-back and as a wing-back, which will undoubtedly appeal to Atlético.
However, City will have a buyback option on the player, and there have been whispers Real Madrid could move to acquire him as an understudy for oft-injured Dani Carvajal.
The 23-year-old Ajax full-back already has four goals and three assists between Eredivisie and the Champions League this season. Moroccan international Mazraoui has a contract that runs out in June 2022. English and Italian clubs will probably be all over him — and his agent is Mino Raiola, who will try to engineer a fierce and costly bidding war. That does not align exactly with how Atlético do business, but stranger signings have taken place.
Partido a partido, but...the three games Atlético play immediately following the international break are home games versus Osasuna and AC Milan, followed by Cádiz away.
This slate is absolutely essential to Atleti’s season and will prove fundamental if the rojiblancos are to challenge for trophies this year.
Osasuna are winless in four and without a goal in three. Milan are in last place in Atlético’s Champions League group after losing away at both Liverpool and Porto. Cádiz have yet to win at the Nuevo Mirandilla this season.
The margin for error in LaLiga has been larger this season, but contenders are soon to separate themselves. Given Barcelona are transitioning under yet another new coach and Villarreal’s battle with injuries, Real Sociedad look like solid top-four contenders at least. Sevilla and Real Madrid both entered the international break on four-game unbeaten runs (or longer).
This is the pack Atlético are chasing. With several teams still cramped together atop LaLiga, one good winning streak will prove invaluable for whichever team goes on it. The champions, getting Llorente and Thomas Lemar back after this FIFA break, have not won back-to-back league games since August — a run they must end if they are to defend their title.
Meanwhile, in the Champions League, the margin for error has been whittled down to none, basically, following back-to-back defeats in the competition. A home victory over Milan is an obligation, irrespective of what happens at Anfield between Liverpool and Porto.
Some help for Atlético there could mean the colchoneros enter the final matchday needing just a draw in Portugal to clinch a last 16 place. I shouldn’t have to tell you about the alternative.