Fernando Torres, Sergio Agüero, Diego Forlán, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa. They have all held the expectation of rojiblanco fans in recent years, and since the latter’s departure last week to Chelsea, the question on everyone’s lips is – who will lead the line at the Vicente Calderón next season?
It now looks set to be Mandžukić, but is he right fit, or is there a better option available?
Costa’s sale has been inevitable since the end of last season, and the club have been working to find a replacement to try and help them defend their league title in 2014/15.
In the early weeks of the transfer window, the prime candidate looked to be Belgian frontman Romelu Lukaku on a part-exchange loan deal from Chelsea, although interest has cooled in the last couple of months according to reports in the Madrid press.
Now, the options have been narrowed down almost exclusively to two in particular; Manchester City’s Spanish battering ram Álvaro Negredo, and the industrious Mario Mandžukić of Bayern Munich.
Despite having history with Real Madrid and Sevilla, Negredo has always been the option Atleti have liked.
He was looked at first back in 2011 in a possible deal that would have seen Kun Agüero do the unthinkable and move to the Bernabéu, and again last summer after Falcao was sold, but neither materialised.
Simeone is said to be keen on a third attempt to sign him however, and has asked the club to make him the priority.
The Beast of Vallecas enjoyed an impressive debut campaign in the Premier League as City marched to win the title, but was unable to win a place in Spain’s World Cup squad after a drop in form after Christmas.
He may be the preferred choice, but rumours suggest that it’s Mandžukić who is the favourite.
The Croatian forwards signing seems easier, given that he has stated his desire to move on from Bayern, following the arrival of Robert Lewandowski. He is also available for cheaper – English clubs like to inflate the price when selling players – as would be the case with Negredo.
Reports in the German press are claiming that a €22 million deal for the striker is done. A verbal agreement is in place, according to Bayern.
Having just played in the World Cup, the former Wolfsburg forward is something of a late bloomer having only moved to the Allianz Arena aged 26, but in the last two years has established himself as an elite striker with over 50 goals for club and country.
This hasn’t been enough to stop Pep Guardiola upgrading his front-line though, and with Lewandowski coming in as a likely starter, Mandžukić admitted to press at the end of the season that he would be looking to move somewhere more suitable.
“I’ve had a fantastic time at Bayern. It’s a great club and I never thought I’d want to leave, and especially not at this point in time,” he said. “But, let’s be honest, I cannot play to my strengths under Guardiola’s style – no matter how hard I try.”
“It’s time for a fresh challenge.”
He’s not the only one who is unsettled though, reports also say that Negredo is not on best terms with City boss Manuel Pellegrini and has seen his relationship with the Chilean deteriorate over time.
A shoulder injury in January saw him lose his place in the line-up and since then he has failed to find the net, having scored 23 times in all competitions prior to then.
His loss of form is perhaps a cause for concern, but he’s the type of player who it is easy to see excel under Simeone.
The €30m asking price is steep for someone who is nearly 29, but given that he is represented by the infamous Doyen Group, you would think he would be attainable if we made a real push for his signature.
Negredo represents the like-for-like option to replace Diego Costa, whereas Mandžukić, tall, hard-working and lethal in and around goal, bears more resemblance to Radamel Falcao, at least in how you would expect us to play with him up top.
Reliable MARCA journalist Javier Amaro backed up this theory by suggesting this season’s Atleti will see a slight change in style similar to the side of 2012/13, and hinted on Twitter that our new striker will be ‘Croatian, slow but a great finisher’. Make of that what you will.
Either way, the new incumbent of our number 9 shirt – who we have reason to believe will not be the only striker arriving before September – should be confirmed sooner rather than later, be it Mandžukić, Negredo or somebody else entirely.
Who would be your choice to replace Diego Costa in attack? Would you welcome Negredo to the club?