Atlético boss Diego Pablo Simeone has finally voiced his exasperation after weeks of inaction by the club’s front office with regard to bringing in quality Champions League reinforcements for the upcoming season.
“If we can’t improve the squad, then everything we have worked for until now will be very difficult to improve,” Simeone told Fox Sports from his native Argentina on Tuesday.
“Both Madrid and Barça get stronger,” he said.
“Real Madrid have already brought Isco in for €30 million and Barcelona have already bought Neymar after two years in which they have not won the Champions League.”
He continued: “On the other hand, we haven’t been able to bring in any players yet. No one has arrived and that makes things difficult. The club is working at it and looking for solutions to remain competitive.
“In order to improve, we have to improve the squad we have.”
Upon the conclusion of the 2012/13 campaign, ‘El Cholo’ made it clear his priority was to bring back, at the very least, his namesake Diego, who has already returned to Wolfsburg for the Bundesliga outfit’s pre-season and at this point seems a long shot to suit up in red and white.
Then there’s the Álvaro Negredo mess.
For weeks, it appeared that the striker was a lock to replace the outgoing Falcao — much to the chagrin of the vast majority of Atlético supporters, mind you — but Atleti have not been able to come to terms with Sevilla president José María del Nido, who continues to demand a fee of €25 million.
“We still haven’t been able to replace Falcao,” said Cholo.
“I hope that this gets resolved in the coming hours. Last year, we had the opportunity to not mess with the structure, with no one leaving except Diego — who didn’t belong to us — knowing that he was a player with a lot of talent and that gave us a higher quality of play.”
He continued: “Raúl [García], who was out on loan, returned, and we brought in ‘Cebolla’ and ‘Cata’, but we were unable to add a player that would give us a boost on offense. But we did retain the structure. That was very healthy.
“Now we have to rise to the demands of the competitions that we will take part in. Before, we played in the Europa League and, now, we will play in the Champions League and it’s different.
“When you have to play in the Champions League on Tuesday and are obligated, do or die, to qualify for a Champions League berth, it’s difficult without weapons and we need weapons.”
To make matters worse for the Argentine tactician, coveted midfielder Jérémy Toulalan, a long-time target of los Colchoneros, has reportedly slid out of their grasp.
According to AS, Málaga and pesky Monaco have reached an agreement for the Frenchman, who would be lining up alongside our departed superstar Falcao.
Simeone is well aware of the financial constraints Atleti have at the moment, but still feels something must be done in order for the Copa del Rey champions to continue making strides.
“I don’t aspire to nor do I imagine that Atlético Madrid could buy a €50 million player,” he said.
“But, without destroying the club’s finances, the team must be improved. I understand that, at clubs like Atlético, at some point, players like Agüero, Forlán, Torres or Falcao may leave. But, the club always kept growing after that would happen.”
The 43-year-old continued: “If, after this year and a half, we’re able to continue to advance without breaking apart the structure of the club, that would be the ideal situation. If Falcao leaves us and we can bring in a great player and, also, add someone in midfield that gives us that boost in quality, we’ll continue on this path.”
While the signing of Rayo forward Leo Baptistão was officially announced a month ago, his presentation before the Rojiblanco faithful still hasn’t taken place.
This could be due to the fact that Simeone doesn’t intend to keep the gifted youngster around for the next term, as rumours out of Spain suggest the coach wants to loan Leo out–perhaps back to Rayo.
Cholo’s countryman Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez — who recently credited Simeone for making him “a better footballer” — is said to be another name on Atleti’s wish list.
“Papu is a very intelligent player,” Simeone said of the Catania winger.
“He’s rebellious, but very intelligent. Obviously, with the maturity that we all undergo as people and as professionals, he has progressively grown and improved greatly. He’s a priority.”
He continued: “When I was at San Lorenzo, he played a position he had become a star at. In Argentine football, we glorify certain players too quickly after only a few matches and we believe, because it happened to me as a player, that we are the centre of the world.
“In this sense, when they start to play you in a different position, after you’ve played so well in another, it disrupts everything you’ve been hearing about yourself. I noticed that he was more valuable to me in a different position on the field and that’s why I played him as an outside midfielder or as a winger, and he did very well there. He wanted to improve and he has achieved it. We argued at San Lorenzo, but that happened to me with others. With Buonanotte at River because he would tell me that he couldn’t drop back so much to defend. I told him that if he couldn’t lend a hand to the fullback then I would tell him not to pass the ball to Buonanotte.
“The key to modern football is to put talent at the service of the collective.”