Despite the latest rumours suggesting Barcelona are negotiating for Atlético superstar striker Radamel Falcao, it seems the Rojiblanco faithful can rest assured ‘El Tigre’ and attack partner Adrián – also the subject of occasional Barça-bound speculation – will be back to defend their Europa League title next season and once again vie for a place in the Champions League.
The pair have unquestionably filled the void in Colchonero hearts caused by last summer’s devastating departure of Sergio Agüero, and to a lesser extent, left by Diego Forlán’s exit.
A year removed from that tumultuous offseason, our new forwards ended up tallying 55 goals between them–19 more than Kun and Forlán compiled in their final campaign at Atleti and eight more than they totalled in their own Europa League-title-lifting season in 2009/10.
Should Falcao and Adrián return as expected, they are virtually assured of a place in the fold for the UEFA Super Cup final against Chelsea, and they will lead the charge in our 2012/13 campaign.
What isn’t so clear however, is who will be the man, or men, who will be coming off the bench to allow our lethal strike duo to take a break every once in a while.
The leading candidates, of course, are Eduardo Salvio and Diego Costa, who for the third time in as many summers, will be fighting for a place in the squad given that the Brazilian will not, as Spanish paper AS reports, be receiving a Spanish passport in time for the start of the next term.
Upon the arrival of countryman and coach Diego Simeone, Salvio took on a larger role than ever before while in red and white.
For the most part, ‘El Toto’ delivered when given the chance, particularly in the Europa League, a competition in which he appeared in 16 matches (six as a starter), scoring five goals and adding two assists en route to the title.
The Argentine only notched three goals and two assists in 31 appearances in La Liga (17 as a starter).
Costa meanwhile, in just half a season at Rayo Vallecano, where he spent the second round on loan after recovering from a severe knee injury sustained last July in training, scored a remarkable 10 goals with our neighbours, even adding a highly respectable sum of four assists.
Both of our presumable back-up forwards have no shortage of suitors, and it will be the job of the Atleti coaching staff and front office officials to determine who, if either, should stay at the Vicente Calderón.
Considering the club are looking to secure €30 million in order to retain Falcao and make up for the budgetary gap reportedly caused by our missing out on a Champions League berth, the sale of both men is a plausible scenario.
Should that end up being the case, sporting director José Luis Pérez Caminero and crew have purportedly lined up Trabzonspor star Burak Yilmaz, who led the Turkish Süper Lig with 32 goals last season.
That extraordinary total was achieved in 30 appearances by the 26-year-old Turkey international striker.
AS claims the forward’s €5 million price tag is what’s holding back a deal from being struck between his current side and Atleti, who are on a white-knuckledly-tight budget at the moment as evidenced by their first two signings for next year: Emre and Cristian Rodríguez, both coming in as free agents.
Who would you like to see coming off the bench to replace our top two when rest is needed?