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Carrasco close to agreement with Al-Shabab; Atlético waiting for offer

Simeone wants the Belgian to stay, but the club is willing to sell him.

Estonia v Belgium: Group E - UEFA EURO 2024 Qualifying Round Photo by Joosep Martinson - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Yannick Carrasco’s Atlético Madrid future has been uncertain for a while. Heavily linked with a move to the Premier League last summer, Carrasco ultimately stayed despite interest from Tottenham Hotspur, and Atlético seemed intent on renewing the Belgian’s contract. But negotiations stalled during the 2022/23 season, and Carrasco’s FC Barcelona escape route never materialized. Now, he’s entering the final year of his contract, with no renewal in sight.

Carrasco has joined his teammates on their preseason tour — which began with a 3-2 loss to an all-Korean league 11 in Seoul on Thursday — but the Belgian might not be sticking around much longer. Saudi Pro League club Al-Shabab are on the verge of finalizing an agreement with Carrasco, while an offer to Atlético will not be far behind if the 29-year-old has his heart set on a move to the Middle East.

Head coach Diego Simeone still views Carrasco — who joined Chinese club Dalian Pro in 2018 but returned to Atlético less than two years later — as a fundamental part of his team. The winger started last season badly as he tried to stay fresh for the FIFA World Cup, but he ended the campaign in top form, registering seven goals and three assists in 35 appearances — a third consecutive season with at least 10 goal contributions in LaLiga.

“We’re not relaxed until the window shuts,” Simeone said from Seoul. “Carrasco is extremely important, he knows us well. Hopefully he stays, he’s very important to the team.”

The club doesn’t quite agree.

Chief executive Miguel Ángel Gil may not be eager to sell Carrasco, but there certainly exists a willingness to let him go given his contract expires in June 2024 and there has been a lack of suitors for players like Thomas Lemar, Saúl Ñíguez, and João Félix. The return of Samuel Lino from a successful loan at Valencia further complicates Carrasco’s future in Madrid — the 23-year-old impressed in Carrasco’s left wing-back role during Thursday’s friendly, and Atlético have (so far) refused to entertain offers for him.

Carrasco’s departure would be a blow to Los Rojiblancos in the short term, especially if it happens right at the start of the 2023/24 season. Carrasco is not the most consistent player and he is more prone to cold spells than most, but he fills a role nobody else in the squad can fill at the moment — he possesses the directness and versatility to succeed in four- and five-defender systems. It's easy to understand why Simeone regards him so highly.

However, the chance to mold Lino and Rodrigo Riquelme into first-team contributors could prove more beneficial to Atlético in the long-term — certainly more so than handing Carrasco a bumper new contract two months before his 30th birthday. Simeone is pleased with Lino’s progress to this point, and Riquelme has a greater chance to stay following Real Betis’ decision to sign Isco Alarcón on a free transfer this week. Those two young players could make up for the loss of Carrasco, even if it takes some time.