It’s official, Adrián is on his way to Porto for a reported €11 million. His departure evokes a mixed reaction amongst Atlético fans, and his time in the red and white shirt have had their ups and downs to say the least.
Where did it all go wrong for ‘the perfect number 7’?
The Asturian joined Atlético Madrid in July 2011 as a free agent from the relegated Deportivo La Coruña. He finished the previous season as top scorer for the Galician side and weeks later won the golden boot representing Spain at the U21 EUROs.
Expectations were high for the 23 year old, who was deployed mainly out on the wing by Gregorio Manzano. The latter stage of his first season saw Adrián become a successful second striker under Simeone. In that first year, he was influential in the Simeone revolution that saw Atleti claim their second Europa League title and finish 5th, narrowly missing out on Champions League football to Malaga.
His form for Atlético Madrid in the 2011/12 season was electric, netting 19 goals and racking up 10 assists. He, Falcao, Turan and Diego formed one of the most prolific attacks in La Liga and his reputation skyrocketed. Many Atleti fans have fond memories of his goal against Real Madrid and THAT volley against Valencia – all of which caught the eye of Spain’s head coach Vicente Del Bosque.
Adri was handed his international debut for La Roja on the 26th of May, 2012. Adrián came on at half time against Serbia and opened the scoring with a header in the 64th minute. He later earned the team a penalty which made the game 2-0.
This incredibly versatile forward who could play as a goal scoring striker or assisting winger became hot property. Despite being linked with a move to Arsenal all summer, many Atlético Madrid fans couldn’t wait for the next season to begin, as surely he would only improve on his amazing first term at the Vicente Calderon and possibly become a regular for La Roja.
This unfortunately, was not to be.
Adrián made 48 appearances for Atlético Madrid in the following season – scoring 4 times and only grabbing 2 assists. This dramatic drop in form surprised everyone, from the fans to his teammates and even the player himself.
Things began well enough – Adrián started in the 401 thrashing of Chelsea to win the UEFA Super Cup, but it soon became apparent that this was not the same player from the year before. He became somewhat of an anomaly as Atlético Madrid enjoyed one of their finest seasons – finishing third and winning the Copa Del Rey at the Bernabeu – yet he endured one of his worst.
The self-proclaimed ‘perfect 7’ found himself increasingly on the bench and with the emergence of Diego Costa, received less and less playing time. Adrián lacked the confidence to fight for his place on the pitch and as Atleti’s standards got higher, he fell further and further into obscurity. Spectators suddenly became used to seeing the Asturian miss chances, lose the ball easily to defenders or fail to find his team-mates with his passes or crosses.
Despite this, Adrián was still a fan favourite among the Atleti faithful, and he even remained popular with coach Simeone, who continued to pick him throughout his poor form. However, it seemed that Adrián’s greatest enemy was himself.
Atleti fans spent the entire season patiently waiting for Adrián to dazzle with his footwork, or race down the pitch and slot the ball between the posts – but the wait was in vain.
The departure of Falcao to Monaco in the summer of 2013 saw Diego Costa become the focal point of the attack – leaving space for a supporting striker. A role that was crucial to the success of last season – but it wasn’t our number 7 that stepped up to the plate – it was our number 8 Raul Garcia who transformed into an attacking hero. Coupled with the purchase of David Villa from Barcelona, Adrián found himself drifting further and further into the shadows.
By this time even the most ardent Adrián admirers were calling for him to be dropped – Diego Simeone continued to select him. He made 22 league appearances scoring only once and assisting on three occasions.
Despite disappointing domestic form, his performances in the Champions League bore much more resemblance to the Adrián of old.
Simeone surprised most the football world when he started Adrián in the decisive quarter-final second-leg against Barcelona, with Adrián ending the game as a candidate for man of the match.
He also started the semi-final second-leg against Chelsea, scoring the equaliser for Atlético Madrid and was the catalyst for the 3-1 win that ensued. Adrián’s final appearance in an Atleti shirt came in the ill fated Champions League final, as he was a substitute in the 8th minute for the injured Diego Costa.
The wait for Adrián to start where he left off in 2011/12 is finally over. His move to Porto allows both himself and Atleti fans the chance to start a new chapter. His time at the Vicente Calderon has been turbulent to say the least but he leaves us with Liga, Europa, Copa and Super Cup medals to his name.
We wish him the best of luck in his new adventure at Porto, Gracias Adri!