Perhaps no Atlético Madrid player fell further from grace last season than Mario Hermoso. The left-footed center-back was integral to Atlético’s league title success in 2020/21, but his frequent errors throughout 2021/22 left observers scratching their heads, wondering how the 27-year-old could pop up with sensational late goals while also failing to cover his position at least decently.
Matters with Mario came to a head in February after a disastrous display at Barcelona, when Adama Traoré tore Hermoso apart in the first half of an eventual 4-2 loss. After that defeat, Diego Simeone inserted new signing Reinildo Mandava into the team, and the Mozambican rarely came out afterward. Hermoso was mostly a spectator between mid-February and the end of May, making only two starts in LaLiga following his personal Camp Nou catastrophe — both coming when third place was all the Colchoneros had to play for.
Many figured Hermoso would be one of the first players out the door this summer as Atlético looked to rebuild its defense, but the club has yet to make a signing at any defensive position as the first team wraps up its grueling two-week preseason camp at Los Ángeles de San Rafael. That could change next week, with Gianluca Di Marzio among several reporters saying right-back Nahuel Molina will have a medical in Madrid on Monday ahead of signing a five-year contract with Atleti.
But the fact is that even though the unit’s fortunes changed with Reinildo’s arrival in February, Atlético’s front office has not seen it as a priority to reinforce Simeone’s central defense options.
Marca’s David Medina on Saturday reported that Sevilla are interested in acquiring Hermoso as a replacement for Jules Koundé, who is heading either to Barça or Chelsea. Atlético would like to sell the player for a reasonable fee and would move to replace him if he’s sold.
But Hermoso doesn’t seem interested in a transfer, as he’s started a family and is comfortable in his native Madrid. It is thought that his €4 million per year salary would also be a lot for Sevilla to take on, though the Andalusian side had a higher wage bill than Atleti last year.
Regardless, the defense is still a major concern for Simeone after his famed back line leaked 43 goals in LaLiga a season ago. José Giménez and Stefan Savić missed 24 league games between them last year, while the club saw fit to extend 33-year-old Felipe’s contract despite the Brazilian’s own erratic form.
A Hermoso sale could give Atlético the flexibility within LaLiga’s financial controls to sign a center-back “of guarantees” — without one, challenging for trophies this season will be tough.