Far be it from me to dampen the vibes from Atlético Madrid’s electrifying 7-0 pasting of Rayo Vallecano on Monday, but it is my sad duty to report that I am once again writing an update on João Félix’s playing future.
Relevo’s Matteo Moretto on Tuesday reported that the João saga is entering its final stretch. The 23-year-old has rented out his house in Madrid to a new tenant, and he is still hoping a last-minute move to FC Barcelona materializes before the summer transfer window in Europe slams shut on Friday.
João has been “waiting” for Barça since he declared to Fabrizio Romano six weeks ago his desire to move there. But most reports agree that the champions — heavily strapped for cash this summer after their freewheeling spending last year — cannot really afford the Portuguese at Atlético’s current conditions, which include paying his annual amortization (roughly €15 million) along with 100 percent of his wages (estimated at €9 million gross). There also remain doubts as to whether head coach Xavi even wants the player, or how he would use him if president Joan Laporta and new sporting director Deco actually acquire him.
Barcelona would certainly have to find a taker this week for 20-year-old forward Ansu Fati, either on loan or permanently, in order to bring forward a move for João — who himself is not likely to join the Catalan club on a permanent deal, given its perilous finances. Moretto says that if Barça can’t make the transfer happen, João has decided to move to Saudi Arabia, where Al-Hilal have previously shown interest in him:
Al-Hilal made a loan offer (earlier this month) to Atlético for around €15 million. The offer seemed fine to the player, but Atlético rejected it. The club did not want him to be on loan for a year in Arabia because of the risk that he would lose market value. ... Things can change if the Spanish market closes and João continues under Diego Simeone’s orders.
Despite being named in the squad to face Granada in matchday one and Rayo in matchday three, João has not yet played a single minute this season — and Atlético haven't missed him. Antoine Griezmann fully re-established himself as Simeone’s talisman and Atleti’s heartbeat last season, so it’s appropriate that the Frenchman kicked off the scoring at Vallecas on Monday night — when six separate players grabbed goals for Los Rojiblancos on the way to their biggest-ever away win in LaLiga.
Atlético have played some of the finest attacking football in Spain since the calendar turned to 2023, scoring the most goals of any team in Primera and accruing the most points to boot. Every goal scored and every point won has come without a single contribution from its €127 million forward, who has burned every bridge he had remaining at the club and has found there is but scant interest in his services from European sides considered “competitive.”