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Atletico Femenino update: New-look team eyes quick rebuild, return to title challenges

A new coach and a squad reshuffle headline Atlético’s summer agenda.

Atletico De Madrid V Levante UD - Primera Division Femenina Photo by Oscar J. Barroso / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images

The 2020/2021 campaign was a disaster for Atlético Femenino, even though the club managed to secure a first-ever Spanish Super Cup after defeating Levante 3-0 in the final.

Failing to challenge for the title — and missing out on a UEFA Women’s Champions League spot — has to be deemed as disappointing, at least.

However, Atlético did manage to end their season on a high after their 4-3 victory over the dominant FC Barcelona, inflicting defeat on the Catalans for the first time in 758 days. A late rally saw Atleti finish fourth on 63 points and immediately after, the club started to position itself for next season.

Óscar Fernández will be Atlético Femenino’s new coach as he put pen to paper on a two-year deal.

In his first interview as the new coach, the 34-year-old Fernandez said that it is a dream come true for him, and that he is very excited to start working with the team.

“My grandfather supports Atlético, my father supports Atlético, my family supports Atlético and I support Atlético,” Fernandez stated.

One of the first players to confirm her continuity at the club was Virginia Torrecilla, who has reached an agreement to extend for another year until 2022. Torrecilla is yet to return to action after being operated on for a brain tumor back in May 2020.

Atletico de Madrid v Levante UD: Copa de la Reina Semifinal
Virginia Torrecilla of Atletico de Madrid looks on prior to the Copa de la Reina Semifinal match between Atletico de Madrid and Levante UD at Estadio Municipal de Butarque on May 27, 2021 in Leganes, Spain.
Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Atlético have already strengthened its squad with a number of signings. The first to arrive was forward Sheila García, who was on the books of Rayo Vallecano in the past five seasons. Back in 2019, she also collected her first national team cap with Spain as well.

Maitane Lopez is also a new Atlético Femenino player, arriving after a one-year spell at Real Sociedad. Previously, the 26-year old midfielder spent five years at Levante. She has signed until 2023.

Thembi Kgatlana, from South Africa, is another new Atletico Madrid player after agreeing terms on a deal until 2024. The striker is one of the best African players around, having been named African player of the year in 2018. She has played for Houston Dash in the NWSL, Beijing BG Phoenix in China and Portugal’s Benfica. Last season, the 25-year-old scored 10 goals for Eibar.

Eibar v FC Barcelona - Primera Iberdrola Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Finally, Atlético confirmed veteran forward Estefania Banini’s arrival from Levante on Wednesday, and she has signed a two-year contract.

Elsewhere, Atlético have parted ways with several players, including goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin (who joined Juventus) and Kylie Strom, who will be bolstering Orlando Pride’s backline in the NWSL. In addition, Charlyn Corral has signed for Liga MX Femenil side Pachuca ,whereas Germany international Turid Knaak has moved to domestic giants Wolfsburg.

England international Toni Duggan has left the club but is yet to sign for a new one, though rumours are linking her strongly with Everton. Italian midfielder Tatiana Bonetti could return to her native country at Napoli, while French player Emelyne Laurent is linked with a move to European heavyweights Lyon.

New season

The 2021/2022 season, which will be called Ellas League and organised by the new women’s football organisation rather than the Spanish FA, is set to start on Sept. 4 and it will run until May 15.

This will be the first-ever professional league in Spanish women’s football, and there will be a number of amendment from previous years — including the requirement of natural grass pitches, a minimum number of spectators in the stands and a minimum salary for female players.

This could also be the penultimate season with 16 teams in the league, as reports in Spain are indicating that the league might be trimmed to 14 teams following the next campaign.

Atletico de Madrid v Levante: Copa de la Reina Semifinal
Leicy Santos and Estefania Banini battle for the ball during the Copa de la Reina semifinal in May. Levante won the match with a 90th minute goal from Rocío Gálvez.
Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The Copa de la Reina will also have a different format, as besides the top-tier teams, there will also be 26 teams from the second-tier and the four champions of the promotion phase from divisions lower in the football pyramid. The final is pencilled for May 29, but the venue is yet to be chosen.

Finally, Atlético will be one of the four teams contesting next season’s Spanish Super Cup alongside Barcelona, Real Madrid and Levante. The rojiblancas will attempt to defend the title between Jan. 19 and Jan. 23.