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MD: Riquelme expected to play for Atlético in 2023/24

According to a report Thursday.

Getafe CF v Girona FC - LaLiga Santander Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Maybe it’s because Atlético Madrid will visit Girona next Monday night. Maybe it’s because the player himself has told Mundo Deportivo that he sees himself as “ready” to play at Atlético. But MD’s Walter Zimmermann reported Thursday that Atleti’s squad makeup for next season includes a place for Rodrigo Riquelme Reche.

The Madrid native has become one of the sensations of the season at Montilivi ... (Riquelme) already knew when he left last summer that he had to return in the summer of 2023 to put himself under Cholo’s orders and try to find a place in the squad. But now, what his entourage knows is that in the club’s planning, they already have a space reserved for him, as long as there is no “last-minute news.”

Academy product Riquelme made the leap to LaLiga this season after starring on loan at Mirandés in LaLiga Smartbank during the 2021/22 campaign. Diego Simeone believed last summer that Riquelme was good enough to merit a place in Atlético’s first team right away, but El Cholo couldn’t guarantee the attacking midfielder the playing time he needed.

So the decision was made to extend Riquelme’s contract to 2028 and loan him to Girona, where he’s performed well. Girona coach Míchel has deployed the 22-year-old in a number of roles, most frequently as a left-winger, and Riquelme has responded with 4 goals and 2 assists across 1,484 minutes in LaLiga. He scored at the Cívitas Metropolitano in Girona’s 2-1 loss to Atlético in October and is reportedly in new Spain coach Luis de la Fuente’s first national team pre-list.

Atletico de Madrid v Girona FC - LaLiga Santander
Rodrigo Riquelme of Girona FC in action during the LaLiga Santander match between Atletico de Madrid and Girona FC at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium on October 08, 2022.
Photo by Ion Alcoba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Riquelme has the makings of an elite ball carrier, seeing as he’s racked up 73 progressive carries this season (nearly 4.5 per 90 minutes, per FBRef stats). He’s also not afraid to take on opposing defenders, as his 5.2 attempted take-ons per 90 attest. Only joint-top scorer Taty Castellanos has more penalty-area touches than Roro’s 3.27 per 90.

Simeone and the club are seemingly open to continuing together for at least another year following Wednesday’s tribute to the coach. Assuming Simeone stays, he is expected to lay the foundation for the next Atlético project, which reports say is centered on younger players — including Riquelme, Sergio Camello, Samuel Lino, and Pablo Barrios, who is already gaining momentum in the first team midfield.

One may wonder whether the composition of Atleti’s midfield will change so significantly to where Riquelme can gain minutes and experience at the game’s highest levels. Will the club sell Thomas Lemar? Will Juventus or another Italian club swoop for World Cup winner Rodrigo de Paul? How about Geoffrey Kondogbia, who could be dangled to the Premier League as his contract expires in 2024? It seems like any possibility is feasible.

But given Riquelme’s versatility, he could plug multiple gaps if he stays in the first team, which would heighten his value to Simeone — who prizes multifaceted players capable of dropping into different roles.


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