The Spanish champions confirmed Monday — at 19:03 local time, of course — that they have reached an agreement with Udinese for De Paul’s transfer, which has been a priority at the club offices for several weeks.
“I’m very happy,” De Paul said in the official statement announcing his transfer. “I’m going to join LaLiga’s champion and I’m conscious of the responsibility it carries.”
De Paul just wrapped up an excellent Copa America and helped Argentina win the trophy for the first time since 1993 — when his new coach Diego Simeone was a player. The 27-year-old scored in the quarterfinal against Ecuador and set up the only goal in the final with a sensational pass that escaped new teammate Renan Lodi’s reach.
“I’m very happy to have the opportunity to work under Simeone,” De Paul said. “Primarily because of the kind of coach he is, one of the best. I love football and I live it every day, and being directed by a coach of Simeone’s caliber is a privilege.”
De Paul began his career at Racing in Argentina, where as a teenager he first came to broad attention (and drew Simeone’s special interest). He joined Valencia in 2014 but struggled to establish himself over a season-and-a-half at Mestalla, eventually rejoining Racing on loan before moving to Serie A.
After he completed a cut-rate €3 million transfer to Udinese in 2016, De Paul became a dominant player. He ranked as one of the best midfielders in the league over the past three seasons and became club captain last year. He scored 34 goals and assisted 36 others in 184 official appearances for the Italian side.
(As an aside, Valencia will receive a portion of the reported €35 million transfer fee for De Paul, based on the 2016 agreement with Udinese. It’s said to be around €5.5 million.)
“When rumors began to circulate about my arrival at Atlético, the comments and messages of affection that Atlético supporters sent me were too many to count,” De Paul told the club. “I know it’s a fanbase that is always there and supporting the team. That they have already shown me so much makes me feel like a part of the rojiblanco family already, and I’m sure it will make it easier for me to adapt.”
De Paul joins a loaded midfield that includes Spain internationals Koke and Marcos Llorente, France international Thomas Lemar, Mexico’s Héctor Herrera, fellow former Valencia pivot Geoffrey Kondogbia, and the wantaway Saúl Ñíguez. The latter is looking more and more certain to leave before the season begins, meaning De Paul — a hard-working, technically-gifted attacking midfielder who never stops running — is more-or-less set to step in as Saúl’s direct replacement.