The transfer window is often a period of unease for Atlético fans. Much has been made of our activity over the summer, in particular concerning players exiting the club, as we pay the inevitable price for our own success last year.
After that crushing defeat in Lisbon two months ago, to close a season that, still, went beyond our wildest dreams, many predicted a mass exodus with Europe’s wealthier clubs on red alert.
That has happened to an extent. However, players have been brought in and a few more big signings will follow. Based on who we’ve brought in so far, we evaluate the possibilities for Atleti in 2014/15, and also take a look at how we are shaping up compared to our domestic and European rivals.
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As we know, Diego Costa and Filipe Luís will swap red and white for Chelsea blue next season, and they are not alone in having left the banks of the River Manzanares during the off-season.
In truth, although the club could perhaps have done more to try and retain their services, both players wanted the move and will be joined by Thibaut Courtois, prevented a fourth season on loan in Madrid as José Mourinho prepares a starting role for the Belgian.
Along with David Villa, that makes four significant departures, and four important positions that need reinforcing. Three already have been, but have we upgraded or just simply filled holes?
On Wednesday, Benfica stopper Jan Oblak was presented at the Vicente Calderón and comes with big pressure on his young shoulders. Not only does he have to fill the boots of Courtois, but at €16 million is the most expensive goalkeeper in Spanish football history.
Just 21 years-old, he continues the theme of a young number one in goal for the red and whites, and although unknown to some having only established himself year, does come with good pedigree.
Oblak has three years of experience in the Portuguese Liga ZON Sagres, but only really rose to prominence midway through last season as he became a regular at the Estádio da Luz. H
is assured performances, including a stunning record of 21 clean sheets in 25 games, played a big part in the Eagles treble-win and saw him win the award for best goalkeeper in the division.
He will be joined in the Spanish capital by former Benfica teammate Guilherme Siqueira, who has been given the responsibility of replacing friend and compatriot Filipe Luís on the left-side of our defence.
A player with experience in La Liga having played for Granada, Simeone is said to have been impressed with the Brazilian in training so far. Given the proud defensive record he and Oblak boasted in Portugal, you would hope that both would be adept at slotting into our backline with minimum fuss.
Having just come off the back of a title win though, some fans have voiced their disappointment at the lack of a ‘marquee’ signing so far, somebody to really improve the team rather than just serve as a replacement. A name that allows fans to start dreaming again, rather than just the renewal of Tiago’s contract.
Last year’s runners-up Barcelona have broken the bank to recruit the controversial Luis Suárez, and also won the race to sign Ivan Rakitić, whereas Real Madrid are on course to break the record they set in 2009 for most money spent in a single transfer window.
Obviously we cannot compete on a financial level, and having upset the balance in Spain and pulled off the impossible, we always expected the ‘big two’ to strengthen. So far though, most are tipping normality to return and in particular Real to dominate.
Winning La Décima (we promise not to mention it again) has sparked a spending spree at the Bernabéu, and Carlo Ancelotti’s side are clearly intent on regaining the league title from their local rivals.
World Cup sensation James Rodríguez became their latest Galactico yesterday as he completed an €80m move from Monaco, with Toni Kroos already on board and Keylor Navas expected to follow. Los blancos appear to have identified positions in their team that need improvement and have not held back in splashing out in order to do so.
Links to former Atleti hero Radamel Falcao also refuse to go away, which would only rub salt into the wound heading into the new season and of course the Spanish Super Cup, the first leg taking place on August 19th.
Of course, we have brought in a striker ourselves in Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandžukić, but although a household name – and proven at the top level – he is no more than a replacement for Diego Costa, rather than the bombazo we have all been hoping for.
Mandžukić is an exciting signing no doubt, but is only available as a result of the Bavarian side’s acquisition of Robert Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund, on a free transfer no less.
Our friend at FCBayernCentral.com, editor Michel Munger, has spoken to us about our new striker.
“The Croatian international’s departure is based purely on discipline. Mandžukić clashed with Pep Guardiola, contesting his tactics and asking for the direct attacking style that made Bayern successful under Jupp Heynckes.”
“He reportedly mocked Guardiola as the coach apologized for the mistakes that led to defeat against Madrid in the Champions League. He was probably right on the tactics, but the conflict was too big. He asked for a transfer and the club obliged.”
Bayern, like Real, are one of the main contenders for the Champions League and will be year after year, but if we are serious about challenging again, as Enrique Cerezo said when speaking to the press earlier in the week, we need to be matching their ambition.
Given that the likes of José Sosa, Adrián and Diego Ribas have also left the club and Cristian Rodríguez has iterated his desire to leave in search of more playing time, at least two more attacking signings are needed. This could be our chance to make a real statement to the rest of Europe and show we mean business again this year.
Earlier in the month press reported that Nicolás Gaitán, another Benfica player, was being sought out, but that has died a bit of a death lately. The same has happened with Alessio Cerci of Torino, who was supposedly the subject of negotiations a week or so again. We also missed out on Argentine wonderkid Juan Iturbe, now of Roma.
AS suggested a new name today, Javier Pastore of PSG, which would be an interesting one. At just 25, the occasional Argentine international burst onto the scene with Palermo a few years ago, but has failed to live up to the €42m the French champions paid for him back in 2011.
What we could see is a domino effect in the market. With James Rodríguez now at Real Madrid, either Isco or Angel di María will most likely be moved on, and PSG have shown particular interest in the latter. They would also need to free up room for a new attacking player, and Pastore would be one of the more likelier candidate should such a situation arise.
In the past week, both the player and his agent have insisted that he will stay in Paris, but you would imagine a solid offer and the chance to play under Simeone would be much more preferable should Di María arrive.
Last season, PSG were just minutes away from the Champions League semi-finals and a showdown with Atleti, and will most likely have similar aspirations to us this year despite, again, the obvious financial gulf.
So far, they have only made one signing but it is a notable one, having paid an incredible €62m to bring in defender David Luiz. The Brazilian will link up with international teammate Thiago Silva in their backline, but serious questions have been raised in particular after his performance in this summer’s World Cup.
With six weeks to go until the deadline though and money to spend, plenty more movement is expected, the same going for Monaco. The likes of Pastore, Lucas Moura and Edinson Cavani won’t want to be squad players should big attacking reinforcements be made, so watch this space.
Whoever we do bring in, it would be nice to have them all signed and with the team by the start of the season at least, as time is needed to settle into the squad and reach the level of fitness we demand. Last year Josuha Guilavogui and Toby Alderweireld were brought in at the last minute to sure up the squad, and a repeat of that should aim to be avoided.
Simeone reportedly wants a tight squad of just 20 players, but for that to work we will need not only a strong first eleven, but also versatile replacements of guaranteed quality, all of whom can be trusted to step in when needed.
Are you happy with the players we have signed so far? Can we compete for the top prizes again in 2014/15? Is there anyone in particular you would like to see brought in?