Atlético Madrid were beaten 2-0 in a friendly match against Beşiktaş in Turkey on Wednesday, a standalone fixture that was organised to help raise funds for relevant charities following the earthquake in Turkey and Syria earlier this year.
Gedson Fernandes and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou scored either side of half-time with goals which secured a convincing win for the home team in Istanbul, while Diego Simeone’s Atlético looked anything but motivated.
Here are there things we can take from the tie.
This was a pointless exercise
Look, there can be little to no questioning the motives of a charity friendly match. But given that the match itself was announced with less than a week’s notice, this was amongst the most bizarre such charity games — especially since it came more than two months after the natural disaster for which it was raising funds.
Unusual or bizarre friendlies for Atlético Madrid are nothing new. But to have them mid-season, and in this case between two LaLiga matches, is even more unusual.
☺️ It has been an honor to have this charity match with you, @BesiktasEnglish, and to visit your stadium, where we experienced an incredible atmosphere. Best of luck with the rest of the season!— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) April 12, 2023
• #TogetherForTürkiye • pic.twitter.com/M60XXOtzLW
The surreal decision to go ahead with this friendly match was reflected in that = Simeone opted to swap all 10 of the outfield players on 65 minutes, with Ivo Grbić the only man to play the full 90 minutes from his position in goal.
Of course, any funds raised are a massive positive. However, the Vodafone Park was far from sold out and while the money raised will almost certainly go to good causes, it will raise questions over the management of the club to send a strong squad to Turkey to take part in a friendly in front of a half-empty stadium.
Fortunately for the Colchoneros, there were no major injuries Wednesday and Almería’s visit to Madrid on Sunday should be a winnable tie. If it doesn’t follow that expectation, some Atleti fans may raise question marks over the wisdom behind this decision.
Geoffrey Kondogbia is alive
France-born midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia was named to Atlético’s starting line-up on Simeone’s team sheet. It was his first start in almost three months, his previous one coming January 15 against Almería. Wednesday’s friendly in Istanbul was Kondogbia’s first appearance at all since January 29, in the win over Osasuna.
We also saw why he isn’t playing. He looked rusty and slow, with a poor attitude reflecting a lack of focus. There was no clearer example than Beşiktaş’s first goal. Kondogbia was pulled wide with ease and made to look foolish as a runner emerged in behind.
Kondogbia played 65 minutes against Beşiktaş, quite a run out in the midfield for in his first outing in two and a half months. With no Champions League participation (and remembering he was playing against Manchester City at this time last year), Kondogbia was able to rate into the team, even if it was for a meaningless friendly. And at the very worst, this display put Kondogbia in the shop window for any potential suitors who could be interested in following his services, with several Premier League clubs linked in January and since.
It seems inevitable Kondogbia will be moving on come the summer transfer window, but he did not take advantage of his opportunity to perhaps remain relevant to Simeone for the remainder of the season.
Ángel Correa is back
Among the highlights, despite the result, was the opportunity to see Ángel Correa captain Atlético de Madrid for only the second time in his career following the recent tragic passing of his mother. The first time he donned the captain’s armband was during the 4-0 friendly win over Juventus in last summer’s pre-season campaign.
Playing for the first time since his late winner against Real Betis, Correa was one of a few veterans to get some work in Istanbul, alongside Saúl Ñíguez (at centre-back), Thomas Lemar and Axel Witsel. Given his time at the club, Simeone selected him to step up as a leader. Correa’s energy and pace showed he perhaps benefitted physically from not having played against Rayo Vallecano at the weekend, while he partnered with energetic youngster Carlos Martín to find gaps in the final third.
❗️| Ángel Correa is back in action and captains the team, just a week after the passing of his mother. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/6jf64nZg21— Atletico Universe (@atletiuniverse) April 12, 2023
Everything indicates Correa will play a prominent role against Almería on Sunday. His start against Beşiktaş could be interpreted as a boost to his hopes of starting the match. Or, instead, it could mean that since he played a full 20 minutes more than many of his competitors, he could be rested. That decision could determine how the rest of his season plays out.