This week Tiago Mendes arrived in Madrid to complete Atlético’s set up. We have signed two defenders, kept Tiago and signed a third striker in Diego Costa. With the signings we’ve made we have strengthened the starting XI, but also made sure that Quique Sánchez Flores has plenty options on the bench. He might even have too many.
With the arrival of Tiago there are now six central midfielders at the coach’s disposal, while only two spots are available. Tiago seems to have earned a spot in the starting line-up after his impressive six month loan spell for us last season and will pair up with the undisputed Paulo Assunção to form a reliable duo in midfield. Behind them in the pecking order are Raúl García, Mario Suárez, Ignacio Camacho and Koke. The latter is a highly rated Spanish youth international (as were the three others) but will most likely remain in Atlético B this season.
Out of these six, Ignacio Camacho might very well be the most popular among fans. At 17 he debuted for Atlético in a spectacular home win against Barcelona. Out of the blue the midfielder was handed a start by coach Javier Aguirre and impressed in a midfield battle against the likes of Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. Atlético won 4-2, with Camacho one of the stand out performers.
Camacho went on to play ten matches that season, as he helped Atlético qualify for the Champions League. However, in the following summer Paulo Assunção arrived from Oporto and Camacho would hardly feature at all in the 2008/09 season, which led to concern among the fans. Their top prospect didn’t get any games and should probably have gone out on loan. But the following season was more of the same. Camacho played just twelve games this past season and was mostly used as a late substitute. That’s why many expect Nacho to go out on loan, surely after the arrival of midfielder Mario Suárez. The media reported of strong interest by Spanish clubs, mainly Deportivo and Mallorca.
However, our pre-season shows that Mario’s arrival may not have an effect on Camacho’s chances. We all assume that there are six players available for two midfield spots, but Quique’s choices in our recent friendlies show there are actually two separate roles; that of a defensive midfielder and a central midfielder. Assunção and Camacho obviously qualify for the first role, while it’s the second position that is heavily contested, with Raúl García, Mario Suárez and Tiago all keen to make the position their own.
In the seven matches we’ve played so far this pre-season, it only occured once, for fourty-five minutes, that the roles were mixed up, when Raúl García to Assunção’s place in yesterday’s friendly against Sporting Gijón. Otherwise it was always Assunção or Camacho coupled with Raúl García or Mario. Instead of the fifth choice in midfield, it seems Camacho is actually the 2nd choice, at worst.
While Assunção’s position is pretty much undisputed, one who looks at the facts could be made to believe that Camacho is actually close to taking over his spot. In five of the seven friendlies we played, it was Nacho who started, and twice played the full ninety minutes. In total the Spaniard played 315 minutes. Assunção started just twice, including one full match, and played 270 minutes.
With Tiago’s arrival it is rumoured that one midfielder has to leave, and many pointed to Camacho as the victim. He is easier to sell or loan on the market than our other midfielders, as he has been linked to multiple – mostly Spanish – clubs. Based on this it would seem though that Camacho is the direct replacement for Assunçao and that it’s one of the midfielders that occupy the other role that should leave. Raúl García and Mario Suárez are very much identical players and it’s unsure whether Quique has decided which out of the two he prefers. They haven’t been linked with transfers away from the club, but one seems expendable. The two of them were both given equal chances to impress in pre-season, with Mario played 358 minutes and Raúl just fourty less.
Assuming one midfielder has to leave, with Koke able to step up when needed, who would you prefer to let go?
Opinion articles are not the views of AtléticoFans and reflect only the opinions of the author.