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Atlético backup keeper search intensifies

Jan Oblak needs a training partner rather than competition as Atlético hunt for a back-up.

Real Valladolid v Atletico Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Jan Oblak isn’t afforded much rest, but Atlético Madrid need a backup to train with their number one and keep him on his toes.

The Slovenian is so vital to Diego Simeone’s side that young understudy Ivo Grbić played just once last season in a Copa del Rey win over Cardassar. The 25-year-old Croatian has hinted at an exit this summer, and that leaves a hole in Atlético’s squad.

Cardasar v Atletico de Madrid - Copa del Rey Photo by Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The champions’ main goal this summer may be to find a number nine to compete with Luis Suárez, but they are on the look-out for a new goalkeeper, too.

“I need to speak with the people at the club,” Grbić said recently. “I haven’t have the chance to speak with them until now because we were all focused on the end of the league.

“This season was instructive for me,” Grbić continued. “I have learned a lot from Jan Oblak, a huge difference coming from the Croatian league. I learned the language, I am completely satisfied. The people at the club appreciate me and are happy with me, but the most important thing for me is to get better, and this is of interest to the people at the club too.

“For that reason, I need to play.”

The candidates

Oblak’s backup needs patience, most of all. He’s not going to play much, because Oblak doesn’t get injured and doesn’t need rest.

Ideally, Atlético would find a back-up who is experienced and can be a good training partner for their number one keeper.

Levante v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Diario AS mention Levante’s Aitor Fernández amongst the options, but he is Paco Lopez’ starter at the Ciutat de València despite Dani Cardenas’ emergence last season.

Roberto Jiménez is currently under contract with Real Valladolid, but at 35 might provide just what Atlético want. Tomáš Vaclík, recently out of contract at Sevilla, is another option.

Scotland v Czech Republic - UEFA Euro 2020: Group D
Tomas Vaclik of Czech Republic makes a save from Lyndon Dykes of Scotland during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match between Scotland v Czech Republic at Hampden Park on June 14, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Photo by Andy Buchanan - Pool/Getty Images

José Sá of Olympiacos is also mentioned in AS as a potential transfer target. The Portuguese shot-stopper is in his prime at 28, though, like Oblak — he will have to be happy sitting on the bench for the season.

Oblak, theoretically entering his prime, has been amongst the top three goalkeepers in the world for the last five years and just picked up his fifth Zamora Trophy in LaLiga, awarded to the keeper with the fewest goals conceded. That is a record-tying haul — no keeper has ever claimed six Zamoras. LaLiga also named him player of the season last week.