How will a season of change affect Atlético?

Transfer market in full swing as we prepare for title defence

Training for the new squad (pic: Marca)

Training for the new squad (pic: Marca)

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, 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?

  • That’s a great article from Billy.

    It’s sad UEFA doesn’t care about having a fair competition and we have to live like that. I didn’t follow Oblak much to understand if he deserves to be the most expensive GK of Liga’s history. Getting Ochoa as free agent would be smarter IMO. Landing (Cerci or Torres) and (Pastore) is enough to have a better team upside than last year.

    But, Simeone is looking for a 20 players squad, which is ok, but we need to rotate more often to avoid what we saw in the last matches. I don’t see the reason to keep Insua if he didn’t trust in to give Filipe a rest last season, for instance. Will he trust him now with Siqueira? What about Juanfran with no backup now?

  • Pasha

    I want to see in team Chicharito, Nani or Lavezzi, Gaitan and Alberto Moreno. And if Manquillo will go to Liverpool, then we have to find someone strong which will replace Juanfran when it is necessary. I won’t be happy if Torres will come back. Yes he is our El Nino, but he isn’t at his top. And I want see Atleti at the top so we need much fit players.

  • Kris

    Hector Hernandez continues to impress while youngsters keep on getting loaned out………

  • starvs

    We kept Cholo, so we should be pretty set.

    When considering the squad for next year, I realized last night I am completely ignoring/forgetting Raul Garcia, not intentionally, I’ve just disliked him for so long I don’t acknowledge his presence. Which is unfair, because he did have a very good season, I’m still not convinced though…

    We def do need at least one more very good attacking player though; if we don’t have the money for that, things are worse than I thought financially; there should be money given the player sales + CL.

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    I’ve always wanted Pastore here and I wish we get him but I think all in all the squad needs improvement since cholo continues to loan out players like oli for eg. I trust most of cholo’s decisions but as we’ve all seen he’s not the best when it comes to rotation and that’s what worries me

  • Billy

    Thanks man, do appreciate it!

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    First, let me say that “Mandzukic departure is based purely on discipline” is a big overstatement
    you can’t claim that a player has a discipline problem just because he had an argument
    with Guardiola, everybody knows that he is very arrogant, and that he tends to have problems with the big names who dare to question him and his methods and tactics, especially the strikers .. Eto’o & Ibrahimovic are some examples
    Mandzukic does not have a discipline problem

    about the competition and our chances this season :

    in UCL, I think we don’t have a problem, we will only meet the giants in the knock-out stages, and in these stages, we can fu**ing knock-out anyone

    In La Liga, I don’t believe that Barca will be better than last season, Luis Enrique -in my opinion- is an ordinary coach
    they lost some big names : Puyol, Cesc, Alexis & Valdes .. Xavi is old and lost his form, and he is only staying because his future club NYC FC will not start to participate in MLS until 2015-16
    and yet again they forgot that they have a problem in defense and they spent a huge amount of money to sign Suarez & Rakitic and it looks like they will settle for Mathieu to fill the gab in their back line !

    while Real Madrid look very strong, but they are not unbeatable, they are not Guardiola’s Barca
    in a football game, you can only use 11 starters & 3 subs
    of course it’s important to have a strong bench, but there is no club in the world can have 23 or 21 superstars
    signing James will make Di Maria leave, and who thinks that James is better than Di Maria is an idiot
    signing Kroos will make both Isco & Illarra start to search for another club, and the same for Benzema if Falcao came, and for one of Casillas-Lopez if they signed Navas

    they are just replacing some great players with others on the same level or maybe less
    it’s mostly about a greedy and crafty super agent called Mendes and a Maniac, self-involved president called Florentino

    The most important thing is us, and in this very moment and despite lacking 2 or 3 signings, I believe we have a great 11
    Juanfran – Miranda – Godin – Siqueira
    Mario – Gabi
    Arda – Koke
    RG8 – Mandzukic

    we just need a couple of players to have a strong bench, but it looks for me that Simeone does not believe in that word !!

    That’s the only thing that upsets me, not losing a couple of key players, most of them to Chelsea, and not hearing one of them calling Chelsea “a club with great HISTORY”,
    not the rumors about Falcao joining Real Madrid .. I don’t care about any of that
    I’m only angry about Simoene emptying our bench, loaning Oliver, maybe Manqui, Gimenez, Leo, Guilavogui & Insua too !
    last season he wanted a squad of 23 player and now he only wants 20, after he have seen what happened to the team in the extra time against Real Madrid just few weeks ago because of his lack of rotation

    but despite that, with the XI above, and with 2 or 3 more signings + whoever El Cholo decide to keep and not loan, I believe we can reach at least UCL 1/4 finals, maybe the semis or the final with some luck and a good draw
    and we can reach 80+ points in La Liga, could be enough to win the tile, or could not, depending on how many points Real & Barca can get, which depends on the state of the clubs of “La Otra Liga” .. which doesn’t look very good to me

    So maybe we could’t win titles this season, but if we got more than 80 points in La Liga and reached at least UCL 1/2 I can’t and I won’t call it a failure

  • Urban

    Good article.

    I think the transfer window is really bad for us so far. We had to sell players who wanted to leave and im fine with that, in particular considering that in all cases we made good business (in particular deal with Adrian seems good for all the parties, and Oli can blossom there if he is given minutes at Porto).

    But there are some thing I dont like:

    1. taking Tiago back, who returned only because he was discarded by the “best coach in the world” who didnt keep his promise – Saul will be struggling now to get minutes

    2. Loaning Manquillo out to Liverpool with an option to buy would be like the dumbest move in the world, he has to go, but to a small team where he will play on regular basis like Saul last term

    3. we are clueless about signing new offensive players, and we need at least two. Reportedly we offer 28 mln for Iturbe, and then a few days later he signs for Roma for 22. WTF? Rumours about Pastore are just silly…

    4. Oblak is a huge, huge risk and another dodgy deal with agents and thirs parties probably strongly involved. We could have Navas for almost have that price, or even Ochoa for free.

    5. We signed Siqueira and a couple weeks later we are trying to sign Moreno – is Cholo so disappointed with Siqueira at the trainings?

    6. Correa who was such a big promise may never play football again…

  • Rowly

    We need to keep hold of players like Manquillo, I’ll be so disappointed if we let him go but I suspect the trend started last summer when we let Joel leave – don’t get me wrong, he’s not the best but he’s decent, young & had grown up at the club so should have been a good back-up GK for years. Big season for Saul but I think he’ll prove himself. I’m reserving judgement on Oblak but it would be unfair to expect him to be at the same level as Courtois yet. Mandzukic should be a good signing. I think we need a forward and a winger/attacking midfielder then we’ll be fairly well set.
    Real madrid should & I think will win the league by a distance this year but I fancy us to get 2nd spot from Barcelona who seem to enjoy wasting money on strikers who are only ever going to be sacrificed for Messi – Ibrahimovic, Villa, Sanchez & Neymar, that’s a lot of money spent & not one of them has been allowed to play to their strengths & Suarez will be no different, plus their defence is very shoddy. Real Madrid have a lot of strength & balance in their squad & a very good manager too.
    2nd spot & a Champs Lge q/f would be a decent season.

  • Søló Cólchèñéró

    we basically lost all our targets from Iturbe to Rodrigo… now we still have a chance to sign Pastoe & Cerci… if we lose these two guys then we lost everything and would not even be able to rank 4th…

  • Mrtn

    With Villa, Adrian, DC, Diego, Sosa and Rodriguez all leaving (6 players!), we need at least 4 attackers to be signed (apart from Mandzukic)
    I just can’t imagine Pastore fighting for lost balls like everybody does in this team… and phisically he is very weak.
    Although he is incredibly fast with the ball, has amazing technique, quite good vision too. Maybe Simeone can turn him into the player he could be.
    Roberto Firmino of Hoffenheim is my favourite, he has skills, vision, clinical finishing, fighting spirit, that’s all we need. Good as a second striker, advanced playmaker or winger.
    Griezman would be another great signing, we all know his skills, he can be a great player soon.
    And finally Torres would be an ideal signing if he comes on a cheap, he has experience and surely will start scoring at the moment he leaves [email protected] Chelsea. Chelsea want him to go, they are in a bad position in this negotiation.
    Now we received about 75 millions for DC, Filipe and Adri. We have to spend all this money to remain competetive, and we can do this as I think winning La Liga and playing in CL final helps the club to a massive profit, not considering transfer expenses and incomes.
    Vamos Atleti