With Luis Suárez’s arrival last September, Atlético Madrid landed a key upgrade from Álvaro Morata — and a player who was instrumental in the team’s title triumph. Suárez’s many game-winning goals stole headlines (and took up many column inches on our site), and were a constant along a forward line that saw upheaval and inconsistency during the season.
Here’s how Diego Simeone’s forwards did in 2020/21.
Sergio Camello/Ivan Šaponjić The 20-year-old Camello was around the first team once more this season and played half an hour between the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Šaponjić played the second half of the season on loan at Cádiz and nearly scored against Atlético during a six-goal thriller at the end of January. N/A
Diego Costa One of the worst transfers in club history, he saw his Atlético career end with a whimper — just a couple minutes against Real Sociedad on Dec. 23 followed by an unconditional release on Dec. 29.
Simeone maintained faith in Costa much longer than he could have (or should have), but there was just no way to overcome the injuries and the health concerns that defined the €66 million forward’s second stint with Atlético. Costa played only seven games, all in LaLiga, and scored two goals — his final goal, a penalty against Elche, came after he recovered from a deep vein thrombosis in his leg.
Costa scored 12 goals from 61 league appearances after rejoining Atleti. He was an expensive disaster, but he’s probable to receive a winner’s medal after this season and retain love from the fans — 4.5.
Moussa Dembélé Costa’s replacement — a lanky, mobile target man who can win headers and stretch the field. Of course, we didn’t see Dembélé much after he joined on loan from Lyon in January — he arrived with a broken arm and contracted COVID-19 in February (not to mention he was up against it with Suárez as his main competition). The 24-year-old accrued less than 100 minutes in LaLiga, and never played more than the 37 minutes he received in a desperate situation in London against Chelsea.
What we did see was a good, hard-working teammate and a better guy. His well-timed leap out of the way allowed Suárez to score the winning goal versus Osasuna on May 16 — a goal that put Atlético within touching distance of the title. Some reports have said Atleti will look for a way to keep Dembélé for another season, though an agreement with Lyon could be tough to strike — 5.
João Félix Began the season on a tear, notching a goal and an assist on the first day before scoring a brace each against Red Bull Salzburg, Osasuna, and Cádiz. The 21-year-old was LaLiga’s player of the month for November and appeared set for a scintillating sophomore season in Spain, but...
Multiple ankle injuries — alongside symptomatic COVID — slowed Félix down again. His final goal this season came on Feb. 28, and he appeared more as a substitute than as a starter in LaLiga — not something you want to read about a €126 million signing. In addition, the player’s effort and fit in a Simeone-coached team were questioned.
However, though he didn’t produce “superstar numbers,” Félix did improve noticeably in 2020/21. He made 12 goal contributions in LaLiga (seven scored/five assisted) as more touches in the middle-third and the attacking third allowed him to influence proceedings more regularly. He became a more progressive ball-carrier and nearly tripled his goal-creating actions per 90 minutes (0.21 in 2019/20, 0.57 in 2020/21).
Félix will be with Portugal at EURO 2020 starting this weekend, but it’s uncertain how many minutes he’ll get with the current holders. Atlético will be watching closely to see how his ankle responds ahead of his third season, which could make or break his rojiblanco career — 6.5.
Angel Correa Like life itself, it’s funny how sporting transactions work out sometimes. Correa nearly secured a transfer to Milan two years ago — but after getting another chance to slide in as Antoine Griezmann’s replacement at second striker, he’s a league champion with Atlético. The guy has more lives than a cat.
Correa played every game between LaLiga and the Champions League for Atlético this season, making a career-high 29 starts in the former. It was clear by springtime that he had beaten out Félix for starting second striker duties, and the 26-year-old overcame a string of bad misses to put together his best season.
Finally playing consistently in his preferred position, Correa scored nine goals and added eight assists in LaLiga. He passed the 200-appearance plateau in May, and he scored an outrageous toe-poke equalizer against Valladolid on the final day. Simeone remained patient with Correa over the years, and the player’s steady ascendance has resulted in his emergence as a top-drawer defensive forward and a core colchonero — 7.25.
Luis Suárez Where to begin?
Suárez’s 21 goals (11 game-winners!) will come to mind right away when this team is talked about in the future. Though Jan Oblak pulled several rabbits out of several hats at the other end of the pitch, it’s Suárez who will probably be remembered as the face of this Atlético side.
The 34-year-old’s shocking move from Barcelona was a David Villa redux. You’ll recall that Suárez’s arrival didn’t exactly receive universal acclaim — “too old,” “too slow,” “too fat” were common refrains — but Simeone knew exactly how to weaponize the Uruguayan’s still-predatory finishing and his simmering rage at Barça for letting him go.
Suárez went on to score 16 times in his first 17 league appearances for Atlético as the team rang up 50 points from 19 games to begin the season.
El Pistolero slowed down in the spring, and there were times throughout the season where he wasn’t moving well at all. But two more dramatic second half winners against Osasuna and Valladolid took him over the 20-goal mark, securing his place as an Atlético icon. He will be back next season to complete his two-year contract, with fresh motivation to defend the crown — 8.25.
Who was Atlético Madrid’s best forward in 2020/21?
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