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Atlético hit dead end in Dušan Vlahović pursuit

The colchoneros will set their sights on another target.

Fiorentina v Cosenza - Coppa Italua Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

According to Fabrizio Romano and Gianluca Di Marzio, Atlético Madrid have failed in a bid to acquire Fiorentina forward Dušan Vlahović this summer.

Club president Rocco Commisso insisted last week he would only consider offers in the region of €100 million for Vlahović, and the billionaire businessman stuck to his guns. Di Marzio’s report (in Italian) claims the player didn’t push particularly hard for the move, either. The 21-year-old scored 21 times in Serie A last season, but would have faced a battle for minutes in Madrid given the competition for places in Diego Simeone’s attack. Instead, he now stands to earn a substantial raise at the Artemio Franchi.

Reportedly, Atlético’s final offer for Vlahović was €60 million, plus a further €10 million in bonuses and 20 percent of a future sale.

So now, after failing to convince Vlahović and seeing Rafa Mir sign for Sevilla, Atleti have a clear path to acquiring Olympic gold medalist Matheus Cunha — who was conspicuously left out of Hertha Berlin’s squad to face Wolfsburg on Saturday.

1. FC Koeln v Hertha BSC - Bundesliga Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Cunha, who joined Hertha from RB Leipzig in 2020, scored seven goals and assisted four last season, helping his team keep its place in the Bundesliga. However, the 22-year-old is unlikely to be a popular signing among Atlético supporters, especially at the rumored €30 million price tag following his Tokyo Games breakout.

Cunha is very skilled — he’s a strong dribbler and his 4.40 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes last season ranked seventh in the Bundesliga. But the problem with signing him is he much more closely resembles Ángel Correa and João Félix — two supporting forwards who are well-established in Simeone’s plans — rather than Luis Suárez, a pure number-nine who turns 35 in January and needs a capable backup.

And alarmingly, Hertha coach Pál Dárdai slammed Cunha for refusing to track back in Hertha’s season-opening 3-1 loss at Köln last Sunday. It should go without saying — if an Atlético player shirks defensive responsibilities, he won’t play at all.

It’s easy to argue signing Cunha is an unwise overreaction from Atleti sporting director Andrea Berta after he put his metaphorical eggs in the Vlahović basket. But maybe Simeone will have a plan for Cunha to restore attacking balance to his squad — and it’s possible the player’s innate talent ultimately wins out.