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Atlético close to completing Nahuel Molina signing; Nehuén Pérez to join Udinese on permanent deal

According to reports in Italy and Spain.

Italy v Argentina - Finalissima 2022 Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Atlético Madrid’s right-back soap opera may, at long last, be nearing its end.

Reports on Thursday night from TuttoMercatoWeb and Italian transfer guru Gianluca Di Marzio claim that the Rojiblancos are zeroing in on Udinese’s Nahuel Molina as their new starting right-back.

Fabrizio Romano and Cadena Cope’s Javi Gómez further corroborated the news later Thursday evening. Marca’s David Medina said via Twitter that barring an unexpected development, Molina will play for Atlético next season, and the club is not contemplating an alternative.

Atlético appear to have successfully beaten Juventus to Molina’s signing in part because, according to Di Marzio, the club is prepared to send talented young center-back Nehuén Pérez back to Udinese on a permanent deal. Pérez, an Argentina under-23 international, made 20 Serie A appearances for I Friulani while on loan last season.

Spanish outlets for weeks have said Molina, a 24-year-old Argentina international, is Diego Simeone’s preferred choice to replace Kieran Trippier on the right flank. He enjoyed a breakthrough 2021/22 campaign, his second in Serie A following a move from Rosario Central, making 31 starts and scoring seven goals. Molina added two assists and generated 2.56 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes as well.

A Boca Juniors product, Molina is a fast and dynamic defender who can play in a line of three (as a wing-back) or a line of four (as a natural right-back). Seeing as Simeone has shifted between the 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 formations over the past two seasons, this versatility theoretically makes him an ideal signing. Atlético’s right side could be very explosive if, as expected, Molina links up with athletic freak Marcos Llorente — who suffered through a goalless season in 2021/22 without the steady Trippier behind him.

Atlético’s salary cap issues have been well-publicized this summer, so it remains to be seen if any further corresponding moves need to be made (beyond ceding Pérez) in order to nudge Molina’s signing over the line. Perhaps the imminent stadium naming rights agreement, along with the confirmed WhaleFin shirt sponsorship, will be enough to cover some costs that otherwise would have been difficult to take on.

Nevertheless, Di Marzio says the deal between clubs is close to completion — and the player will soon travel to Spain to join former Udinese teammate Rodrigo de Paul, along with the rest of the Colchoneros, in training at Los Ángeles de San Rafael.