Atlético Madrid are continuing to navigate the summer transfer market in search of low-cost squad upgrades — an ideal combination in theory, but one difficult to pull off in actuality.
It’s obvious now that Atlético lacked a backup plan to finance its summer business beyond “sell Álvaro Morata and Saúl Ñíguez to the clubs that took them on loan.” With neither Juventus (Morata) nor Chelsea (Saúl) willing to play ball and activate a combined €70 million in purchase options, Atleti’s summer has become a whole lot more complicated.
The squad is exceeding LaLiga’s salary limits, and the club has already let it filter out that it needs to raise €40 million-plus in sales before addressing the problem areas in Diego Simeone’s team.
The biggest problem area is certainly at right-back, with Kieran Trippier long gone and Šime Vrsaljko set to follow next week when his contract runs out. These departures would leave Daniel Wass (a midfielder by trade and a player Simeone doesn’t count on) and Marcos Llorente (also not a natural right-back) as the only “options” at the position.
This would be unacceptable for an elite-level side and unpalatable for the coach, so Atlético have to get more “creative” to achieve this goal — signing a capable, Champions League-quality right-back.
According to Marca’s David Medina, Simeone’s top choice is Udinese’s Argentina international Nahuel Molina. But the 24-year-old’s price tag is over €20 million, a price Atlético naturally cannot meet given the reported financial constraints. With this in mind, Atleti are exploring two alternatives, both with previous experience in LaLiga — Wolverhampton right-back Nélson Semedo and Tottenham Hotspur’s Emerson Royal.
Diario AS reported on Atlético’s interest in Emerson over a week ago, with the Brazil international considered expendable after just one season in north London under Antonio Conte. Emerson played for Real Betis and FC Barcelona before moving to Spurs last August in a €25 million transfer. The Brazil international started 26 Premier League games in 2021/22, but his performances were regarded as disappointing.
Atlético want to sign Emerson on an initial loan with an option to buy, and both AS and Marca say that Spurs are not currently considering letting the player leave under that arrangement. Which brings us to Semedo, who Atleti tried to sign as Juanfran’s replacement three years ago before turning to Trippier.
Semedo has made 59 Premier League appearances since Barcelona sacrificed him during its 2020 squad cull. (A Portuguese player? At Wolves? Who’d have thunk it?) The 28-year-old suffered two hamstring tears last season, but he anticipates he’ll be ready for the start of the 2022/23 campaign. Marca claims Atlético could leverage its relationship with super-agent Jorge Mendes in order to do a deal for Semedo, though it doesn’t seem he’s the priority.
Elsewhere, Sky Sports claimed Sunday that the Rojiblancos are also eyeing Celtic’s Josip Juranović to fill the right-back void. The 26-year-old Juranović, a Croatian international like Vrsaljko, joined the Scottish champions from Legia Warsaw prior to last season. He’s on a contract to 2026 at Parkhead.