It has been about six weeks since Atlético Madrid and João Félix parted ways once again, the forward having departed on loan for FC Barcelona on Sept. 1. As anticipated, Atlético have not missed João — Los Colchoneros have won six of their eight games played in LaLiga EA Sports, and even though they sit fourth (five points behind leaders Real Madrid), they have the head-to-head advantage over Los Blancos as well as a game in hand to be made up in December.
Atlético’s 20 goals from eight games rank second in the competition — just one behind Barcelona. The defending champions sit two points ahead of Atleti, but they have an inferior goal difference from one more match played and have conceded worse than a goal per game amid an unexpected goal glut in LaLiga.
João Félix hasn’t really been part of said goal glut. Playing as an inverted winger on the left of Xavi’s 4-3-3, João has become a regular starter at Barça — after the club loaned out Ansu Fati and sold Ousmane Dembélé and Abde Ezzalzouli to make room for him. The Portuguese has responded with one goal and one assist across 387 minutes in LaLiga.
João’s touches have skyrocketed to a career-high 57 per 90 minutes, but his 3.95 shot-creating actions per 90 are nearly identical to his average (4.02) at Atlético from the first half of the 2022/23 season. And with more touches, more dribbles attempted, and more carries into the final third, João is being dispossessed more frequently. Worse, in the final third, he’s underperforming his expected goal mark by nearly two full goals. In addition, his 0.47 goals and assists per 90 mark is worse than any he recorded during his three-and-a-half seasons in Madrid.
So — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — we’re left with a portrait of a player that is opaque and difficult to parse. He’s probably an improvement on what Abde, perhaps even Ansu, would have provided, but not so much on a healthy Dembélé. However — you can stop me here as well — João’s tantalizing skillset and strong desire to play for the Blaugrana has won him many admirers at Montjuïc. As such, an eager hierarchy at Atlético has reportedly seen fit to name a new price for the Portuguese’s permanent transfer out of the club.
What is Atlético’s price for João?
Two articles in Diario SPORT — Barcelona’s paper of record — state that Barça are already convinced of João’s qualities and that the club sees a long-term future for him in Catalonia. The first, written by Ferran Correas, describes Barcelona’s delight at the “top” performances João has delivered since joining last month, and how he has become an undisputed starter for Xavi (ignoring, perhaps conveniently, that Barça upended nearly its entire attack to sign him, and only after he made a public declaration about wanting to move there).
That said, continued problems adhering to LaLiga’s financial fair play regulations make a permanent transfer difficult to envision — although Blaugrana sources that spoke with SPORT don’t seem particularly worried.
“We have the whole season to prepare a proposal that allows us to keep João Félix. We are very happy with his performance and he is a player who is well-liked in all areas of the club,” Barça sources told SPORT.
Sounds a lot like what we heard out of Chelsea earlier this year — until that club decided it didn’t want to keep the mercurial João after all. This brings us to the second article, which delves into more specifics as to how Barcelona could tie up a permanent deal for the Portuguese next summer.
According to Toni Juanmartí, Atlético have informed Barcelona that João Félix will cost €80 million to sign permanently. This is still an unattainable price tag for the Catalan club, though it becomes more feasible if Atleti agree to receive the fee in three installments of around €25 million each.
But if Barça remain happy with João and wish to keep him, the most practical solution for its board will be to extend his loan through the 2024/25 season before signing him outright. Juanmartí says that under this arrangement, the fee for Barça to sign João in 2025 would be €40 million.
| Atletico Madrid has informed FC Barcelona that they have set a €80m price for João Felix next summer.— Atletico Universe (@atletiuniverse) October 16, 2023
• Atleti is willing to distribute the payment in three instalments of about €25m each.
• Another option would be for Barça to keep him on loan until 2025 and buy him…
“As you can see, I’m happy where I am”
From João’s perspective, even a significant salary reduction is a small price to pay to get away from Diego Simeone.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Portugal’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Bosnia & Herzegovina, João spoke of the difficulty in maintaining form, and that “for some time in recent seasons” he found it challenging to perform to expectation. But the 23-year-old is enjoying life under Xavi — and, to his credit, he did put in one of the best performances of his career on Sept. 19, in the Champions League versus Royal Antwerp — against whom he scored twice and provided an assist.
“As you can see, I’m happy where I am,” João said on Monday. “I feel good, confident, and I feel like I am going through a good moment.”