Diego Simeone’s switch to a 3-5-2 last season did not just help Yannick Carrasco. It turned Kieran Trippier into a marauding, creative outlet on the right, too.
The Englishman finished the season with six assists and a claim for Atlético Madrid’s most important player from a tactical perspective. That should continue next season.
Trippier has received interest from Manchester United, but he has two years left on his contract with Atlético and it would take a significant fee to pry the 30-year-old from Simeone’s squad. He is now one of the Argentine’s trusted starters.
Trippier started and finished all but two of the last 14 games during Atlético’s title-winning run-in. A midseason suspension disrupted his year and almost threw Atlético into crisis, but after his return, he started immediately and never lost his place.
One of the biggest concerns with Trippier over the years has been his defensive ability.
In terms of creative influence, there has never really been any doubt about Trippier’s importance, as his delivery into the box throughout his career has been top-class. But as a traditional right-back under Simeone’s guidance, Trippier was asked to defend and attack in equal measure, à la Juanfran.
Strangely enough, Juanfran arrived at Atlético as a wide midfielder but was quickly turned into a full-back. Trippier has been converted to a wing-back after arriving as a full-back.
Trippier’s six assists in 2020/21 topped even Juanfran’s best efforts — he managed five during Atlético’s successful 2013/14 campaign. He excelled again at the Euros under Gareth Southgate, playing as a wing-back in the final, and that will only add to his potential price tag if United remain interested.
The alternative options
Šime Vrsaljko has one year left on his contract and Atlético will have to make a decision on the Croatian’s future this summer. He is not in contention to win a starting place and Simeone decided to start Marcos Llorente at right-back when Trippier was suspended in January. It seems Atlético should consider any interest that emerges for the 29-year-old.
Santiago Arias is back at Atlético after a season on loan at Bayer Leverkusen. The Colombian’s season was cut short due to a broken leg, but he returns to Madrid with two years left on his contract, and Simeone could be ready to give him another chance.
Llorente is another option and Saúl Ñíguez has played at full-back in the past, too. But after Llorente’s ill-fated Euros left him stranded without a position in Luis Enrique’s plans, and considering Saúl’s intention to leave the club this summer, these are last resorts.
Right-back is not a major problem for Atlético, but if Trippier goes down, or leaves, then Simeone is left with a massive hole in his squad with nobody of the requisite talent to replace the former Burnley and Spurs man. If necessary, Llorente could play on the wing in a pinch, and with Rodrigo De Paul’s arrival, his absence would not be as missed centrally. But, again, this would not be ideal.