Not since the 2016/17 campaign had we seen Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid score 70 times in a league season — until this year. Led by the brilliant Antoine Griezmann, Atlético hit exactly 70 goals in LaLiga last season — level with league winners Barcelona and only five behind Real Madrid’s league-best tally of 75.
Atlético were especially prolific in the second half of the season, after — you guessed it — the FIFA World Cup. Between Jan. 21 and May 24 — matchdays 18 through 36 in LaLiga — Atleti scored at least three goals in a game eight times. That’s nearly an every other game average — highly impressive, especially in a league where scoring averages have become severely depressed.
(Remember when this was the league of 100 goals and 100-point teams? I sure do.)
The 21-year-old forward made four more first-team appearances in LaLiga last season after receiving one six-minute cameo in 2021/22. But more importantly for him, Carlos scored 18 times in Atlético B’s fourth-tier group to help the side win a successive promotion. He is likely to go on loan for the first time next season, with several Segunda sides reportedly jostling for him already. N/A
Probably the season’s biggest letdown. Here’s what I wrote about Cunha in the 2021/22 cumulative ratings:
Though he is still rough around the edges and made just eight league starts this season, there’s plenty to be excited about with Cunha. He has a number of enticing qualities — pace, vision, directness — that make it easy to see him developing into a top-tier number-nine over the next couple seasons.
The same guy who said last August that he felt “extremely prepared” to wear the #9 shirt scored 0 goals in 522 minutes across three competitions for Atlético last season. Zero. None. Nil. Nada. He started two games in LaLiga before he pouted and whined his way out of the club, quickly sealing a €50 million winter move to Wolves — for whom he scored a whopping two goals in 965 minutes.
Fifty million! For two goals! Premier League money really can make all your problems go away. 2.5
Acquired from Barcelona for around €3 million in January, Memphis impressed in between stints on the treatment table, scoring as many league goals as João Félix in roughly 40 percent of the minutes.
Memphis showed a killer instinct in February’s huge win at Celta Vigo before notching a brace in the 6-1 thrashing of Sevilla in March — right before an international break that saw him pick up a hamstring injury while on Netherlands duty. He returned for one game in April, when he scored in the 5-2 win at Valladolid before suffering a season-ending foot injury in training.
In 270 minutes — equivalent to three full games — Memphis scored four times for an average of 1.33 goals and 1.0 xG per 90 minutes. Those are exceptional figures. The 29-year-old probably cannot replicate them over a full 38-game calendar, especially if his fitness issues persist. But I really like what I saw from Memphis in those short bursts — his finishing ability and combination play should see him seriously push Álvaro Morata for minutes next season. 5.5
Oh, João. I hoped it wouldn’t come to this.
João began the 2022/23 season as an undisputed starter for the first time since joining Atlético. He rang up a hat trick of assists on matchday one at Getafe...then didn’t set up another one before leaving for Chelsea on loan. I feel this sums him up as a player.
Simeone in October seemed to throw in the towel on the talented but tempestuous Portuguese, whose fate was practically sealed after he threw a touchline fit when asked to stop warming up during a Champions League game against Club Brugge. João’s temporary exile to London seemed to give everybody a bit of a lift — the Colchoneros’ surge in form after his departure in January sure didn’t feel like mere coincidence.
And João’s time at Chelsea showed viewers who typically don’t watch Atlético what they were really missing — the grating inability to play for the collective, the petulance toward anyone perceived to be in his way, the general lethargy that doesn’t show up in perfectly-clipped 210-second videos uploaded by Twitter Blue users.
João Félix is only 23 years old, and he absolutely has time to turn around his career. But right now, his trajectory is pointing sharply and unmistakably downward. A return to Atleti and Simeone is unlikely to do anybody any favors. 5.5
A sneaky-good season for Correa — while he produced just 10 goal contributions in LaLiga (his fewest since 2018/19) over 1,455 minutes (his fewest since 2016/17), the World Cup winner rang up a career-best 0.66 expected goals and assists per 90 despite making just 13 starts in the league (again his fewest since 2016/17).
Correa’s finishing once let him down regularly, but he really has become more composed in front of goal over the past two years — he scored nine times from 18 shots on target last season after notching 12 goals from 23 shots on target in 2021/22. And he still has a penchant for delivering in big moments — see his solo winner against Real Betis in April.
Now 28, Correa will likely never be a difference-maker against the elite clubs, and he continues to play with an edge that can get him in trouble. But he remains a fan favorite and a loyal Cholista — he’ll surpass the 400-appearance mark for Atlético next season, assuming he’s healthy. 6.7
Morata scored three goals in the first four games of LaLiga, then scored only twice over Atlético’s next 15 games between the league and Champions League. After the World Cup — where he scored in each of Spain’s group games — Morata had two separate stretches where he found the back of the net in three consecutive games, but also had frigid patches of five games without a goal (in January and February) and six without a goal (spanning March and April).
Morata’s final figures: 13 goals and 2 assists over 1,900 minutes in LaLiga, a rate of 0.62 goals per 90 — the fifth-best rate among players with at least 1,000 minutes played last season. So if you want to tell your friends “Morata is one of the five best center-forwards in Spain,” you technically won’t be wrong! 6.8
No contest. There’s not even going to be a “Who was Atlético’s best forward last season” poll at the end of these ratings, because this guy will get every single vote. Griezmann produced one of his best-ever seasons at age 32, finishing as Atlético’s leader in:
- goals (15)
- assists (16)
- goals + assists per 90 minutes (0.98)
- non-penalty expected goals + assists (26)
- carries into the final third (66)
- key passes per 90 (2.64)
- shot-creating actions (162)
- shot-creating actions p90 (5.1)
But my favorite Griezmann stat is this one — he placed third on the team in tackles won. He’s a forward! Who also plays as an interior midfielder and defends the flank like a full-back!
In terms of value to his team, arguably only Marc-André ter Stegen exceeded Griezmann as the most fundamentally-important piece of collective success. And with respect to Robert Lewandowski, Griezmann’s consistency from start to finish — even when Atleti hit its nadir in October — made him LaLiga’s best outfield player in 2022/23. 9.5