In an interview with Cadena SER radio earlier this week, Diego Simeone was asked about potential incoming transfers at Atlético Madrid. He said that sporting director Andrea Berta and chief executive Miguel Ángel Gil Marín knew the “gift” he’d like to have in January — and practically confirmed that this signing, if completed, would be a midfielder.
“I have asked for it, especially because we lost Thomas Lemar for the season,” Simeone said.
On Wednesday, radio network Cadena COPE reported that Atlético are advancing in talks over Real Betis midfielder Guido Rodríguez, who has not renewed his contract with the Andalusian club and thus can leave as a free agent in June. While Guido is a completely different kind of player from Lemar (who is not expected to return this season), he has the sort of skillset Atleti’s midfield has been missing this season in spite of the team’s strong start to the campaign.
Noticia @partidazocope— El Partidazo de COPE (@partidazocope) November 15, 2023
El Atleti tiene conversaciones avanzadas con @Guido_Rodriguez (Betis) que no ha renovado y queda libre el 30 de Junio
El Betis se plantea negociar para intentar cobrar algo (si saliese en enero)
The COPE report says Betis intend to “get something” for Guido in the event that he wants to leave in January, which sets the stage for a complex negotiation when the winter window opens. But I think there’s a solution here that will suit everybody down to the ground, and I would be surprised if Atlético didn’t pursue it.
Guido: A profile Atlético need
He wouldn’t be the flashiest or sexiest signing Atlético could make, but there’s little doubt that Guido Rodríguez wouldn't be a helpful player for Simeone to stick at the base of his three-man midfield. Atleti have lacked a true pivot for much of 2023 — and that’s including the portion of the year that Geoffrey Kondogbia was still in the squad, practically unused by Simeone.
Over the summer, Atlético made an effort to acquire Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, but the club didn't get very far in negotiations and saw a tame loan offer rejected on deadline day. This left Simeone without the defensive midfielder he requested at the end of last season, even before Atleti finalized Kondogbia’s transfer to Marseille.
But in Guido, the club has a chance to right this wrong by signing a player who has been a fixture in Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis team for several years. The Argentina international has made 127 appearances for the Verdiblancos since joining them in 2020 — and he has since emerged as one of LaLiga’s top pivots, his strengths corresponding precisely with the weaknesses in Simeone’s midfield.
Guido (28yo- ) is a defensive specialist with brilliant game reading & positioning which combines to make him an excellent ball winner. On the ball, he’s not progressive & not the best under pressure but is good at keeping it simple & getting it to Betis' most creative players. https://t.co/Ac2QohpFey pic.twitter.com/UPtOy0i7uq— Emmanuel (@LigaLavo) October 12, 2022
Guido averages only around three progressive passes per 90 minutes, but he has a high completion rate (87.6 percent overall) and his long-ball delivery has been more consistent this season. But Atlético would be acquiring Guido to clean up behind the two 8s that would play alongside him. The 29-year-old averages nearly eight recoveries and more than two clearances per 90. He would generally shore up the midfield and allow Koke, Pablo Barrios, and Rodrigo de Paul to play a little closer to goal.
A solution for Galán
Guido might not be the only regular starter to leave Betis in the coming months. Left-back Juan Miranda is reportedly on the verge of agreeing terms to move to AC Milan, so Pellegrini will need a replacement on the flanks, too.
Enter Javi Galán, who remains without a place at Atlético since moving to Madrid from Celta Vigo four months ago. Galán has made only five appearances in LaLiga, totaling 88 minutes. His sole start this season — in the Champions League at Celtic — was a disaster, and he was hauled off at halftime. Seeing as Samuel Lino and Rodrigo Riquelme have both outperformed Galán and are better fits for the system, it stands to reason that the 28-year-old will have a new home come February.
That new home could easily be the Benito Villamarín, if Miranda moves to Milan when the transfer window opens. Galán was perhaps the best left-back in Spain during his two years at Celta — and while Betis would be a step down from Atlético, it’s still a big club playing in the Europa League under the guidance of a good coaching staff.
Swap deals are always difficult to pull off and are often times media creations more than anything — but this one just makes sense. Let’s see if the clubs involved feel the same way.