On Friday, Atlético began laying the groundwork for their upcoming Champions League campaign. Our man Ricardo Menéndez was in attendance to serve as our eyes and ears. Here is his account of what went down in Majadahonda.
Diego Pablo Simeone was very nice to the press, waving and even offering handshakes on his way to the training field.
But the Argentine avoided a formal press conference, and there will probably not be one for a few days to come, according to the information we received.
“Nothing has happened since the last game last season, so there is nothing to mention,” said a club press officer with an ironic smile on his face.
Atleti began the pre-season under the scorching 40 degrees of Madrid in July heat.
As we reported on Friday, the presentation of our only signing of the summer, Léo Baptistão, had atypically taken place at the Jarama Race Track.
Contrary to prior reports, player medicals were postponed until Saturday.
The team will be training at the club’s Majadahonda training facilities for three days: Saturday, Sunday and Monday, before they head towards Los Ángeles de San Rafael and start a more intensive phase of the pre-season that will include early morning and evening sessions to get in shape before the first matches to be played in Argentina later this same month.
Here is the account of who was missing and who was there as the squad’s preparations got underway, with absences and presences worth mentioning:
There were the very noticeable absences of “Cata” Díaz and Sílvio, given extra days by the club to complete their respective exits.
While the Argentine defender seems to have attracted the interest of such teams as Málaga or Boca Juniors, Sílvio’s destination seems to be Portugal. A definite sale is very likely in both cases.
Of course the team was also missing the youth talents that were either competing (Saul, Manquillo and Óliver) or had recently competed (Koke and Joel). Confederations Cup participants also have a few more days of deserved rest (Godín, “Cebolla” Rodríguez, and Filipe Luis).
This means that if the current players that trained at Majadahonda complete the pre-season with the team, 29 men plus signings will fight for a spot with the Champions League bound Rojiblancos.
And now, some tidbits about the players that were in attendance on Friday:
Courtois, a very slim and looking in shape Asenjo and Canadian born, Moroccan youth talent Yassine Bounou (aka Bono) started yesterday. The young Atleti B goalkeeper is thin, tall and catlike, very much in the style of Courtois.
The pre-season saw another return of Leandro Cabrera, who has been on the team since 2009 but has only played four games with Atleti and has spent three straight seasons out on loan. Insúa, Miranda, Pulido and Juanfran were also present.
Some interesting news on this front, besides the players to be expected: Tiago, Mario Suárez, Arda Turan, Raúl García and Gabi, we also saw Rubén Pérez. Rumours suggest the returning cantera player may go back to Betis for one more season. There, he was a solid starter last year and some media outlets even reported he was to start the pre-season with the Verdiblancos. The chatter around the training facilities seems to indicate the matter is far from being decided and Pérez might actually be Plan B after the failed signing of Toulalán.
Here we have been exporting talent for years and youth talents Borja Bastón and Pedro, as well as the Portuguese Pizzi, are back for a shot at grabbing a spot up front. Chances are slim as Adrián and Diego Costa have an assured place on the team. New signing Baptistão, it has been said, would likely be sent on loan, though the player assured at his presentation he knew nothing about a temporary exit. The key absence of Falcao has left a huge hole in Rojiblanco fans’ hearts and the club will try to sign an experienced player to substitute the Colombian, but the task is far from a simple one both due to money and relevant players’ availability.
Finally, we’d like to mention that ‘Cholo’ called-up gifted youth striker Dani “Torito” Aquino , who experienced his return to Primera five years after his debut at 16 years of age in the last match of the season versus Real Zaragoza. In that game, he picked up an assist and put in an overall solid performance coming from Atleti C. The player is expected to play for Atleti B or to go on loan to continue developing and will probably only be with the team for the first part of the pre-season so that Cholo can see him work for a few days. Aquino is a player to follow given the attention he has received from Simeone at the end of the past season and beginning of this one.
Hopefully, Simeone’s silence means Caminero is about to deliver good news and they are waiting to give a positive message to all.
We’ll have to wait and see.