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Yannick Carrasco finalizes transfer to Al-Shabab

The long-gestating transfer is complete.

Rayo Vallecano v Atletico Madrid - LaLiga EA Sports
Carrasco during his final Atlético game — last Monday's 7-0 win at Rayo Vallecano.
Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Rubiales, resign!

It has taken nearly the entire summer, but Atlético Madrid and Al-Shabab are in agreement on a transfer that will take Yannick Carrasco to the Middle East.

Atlético will receive “close to” €15 million for the 29-year-old winger, who was in the final year of his contract and is leaving the club for a second time. Carrasco previously departed for Chinese club Dalian Pro in 2018, only to return to Madrid (as a better player) two years later.

Carrasco on Friday met with sporting director Andrea Berta and chief executive Miguel Angel Gil and asked the pair to sanction his departure. The club did not do so while the summer transfer window was open in Europe — and when it could have signed a direct replacement, or the defensive midfielder that head coach Diego Simeone had asked for when the summer began. Oh, well! At least they didn’t sell him to FC Barcelona.

Simeone on Saturday bid farewell to Carrasco in a press conference held before the ultimately-postponed matchday four contest with Sevilla. Simeone had hoped throughout the summer that the Belgian would stay at the club — and perhaps put pen to paper on a new contract — but the three-year offer from Saudi Arabia worth at least €15 million per year proved insurmountable.

Carrasco’s legacy

Carrasco first joined Atlético from AS Monaco in summer 2015. By season’s end, he was one of Simeone’s most important and “destabilizing” players, and he scored a late equalizer against Real Madrid in the 2016 UEFA Champions League final — becoming the first Belgian to score in the showpiece game.

But Carrasco’s attitude and inconsistency were factors in his February 2018 transfer to Dalian Pro — owned at the time by the Wanda Group, which also sponsored the Metropolitano in its first seasons. In January 2020, Carrasco returned to the club in a deadline day transfer, and he played a pivotal role in Atlético’s league title win the following season — the only major trophy he won at Atleti.

The plan without Carrasco

Atlético hope Samuel Lino will be Carrasco’s long-term replacement — but, like Pablo Barrios in midfield, the transition will be taking place sooner than anticipated. That said, Lino impressed Simeone while on loan at Valencia last season and during the preseason friendlies this summer, so the 23-year-old has the inside track on the left wing-back role for now.

Summer signing Javi Galán has played zero minutes in three games since his arrival from Celta Vigo, with whispers abounding that he is yet to convince Simeone of his quality. The 28-year-old is now expected to have opportunities following the international break and continue to compete for minutes when the rugged Reinildo recovers fully from his knee injury. El Cholo on Saturday teased that the Mozambican is close to returning, but he is a better fit at wide center-back than at wing-back.