Atlético Madrid are a club famed for their fearsome frontmen. In the last decade or so, some of the continent’s top marksmen have graced the Vicente Calderón, and the red and whites have a rich tradition of exciting attacking play and goalscoring pedigree.
Despite the departure of Diego Costa last summer, this year is no different. In Mario Mandzukic, Atleti have a striker who played and scored in the 2013 Champions League final, and they also brought favourite son Fernando Torres back to the club during the winter transfer window.
However, this hasn’t stopped the rumour mill, and even though there are still three months left of the season, it looks as if the club are already planning their squad for 2015-16, possibly with another marquee addition up top.
The name on everybody’s lips at the moment is Luciano Vietto, who is enjoying a fine debut season in La Liga with Villarreal. The 21 year-old has been one of the breakthrough stars of the season, and needs no introduction to Diego Simeone and Atlético fans.
Back in December, Vietto scored a delightful winning goal as the Yellow Submarine grabbed a surprise 1-0 win in the Calderón, and has since earned admirers from Europe’s top table thanks to his clever movement and cool finishing.
Cholo first gave him a chance at former club Racing when he was just 17, and was supposedly interested in him last summer at one stage. “Simeone trusted me, and I will be thankful to him for the rest of my life,” said the young forward after the two teams met.
As it were, Atleti ended up with the Mexican Raúl Jiménez, who has not had as much luck since moving to Spain. You would imagine that another try for Vietto is likely though – he himself has hinted at it – but if rumours that he has a buy-out clause of just €10m then competition will be fierce.
Mandzukic has hit 20 goals so far this season so looking to replace him should not be a priority, but there was supposedly interest in him from the Premier League in January, and it’s not impossible that he could be sold if the right money were to be offered.
Since Chinese investor Wang Jianlin and the Dalian Wanda group arrived on the scene, links to PSG striker Edinson Cavani have been intensifying. The Uruguayan is said to be a favourite of Simeone’s, but the club moved quickly to dismiss speculation on Wednesday.
“Cavani is out of the market for Atleti”, ran rather categoric headlines in AS and Marca, but you have to feel that if Mandzukic were to move on, the former Napoli man would more than fit the bill.
As long as Zlatan Ibrahimovic is around the 28 year-old will always have to play a subsidiary role in Paris, but at Atleti he could take up a role akin to former hero Radamel Falcao who, on a not so separate note, may well be looking for a new club himself this summer.
Looking to the future, although things haven’t quite been working out for Jiménez, there is the very exciting prospect of Ángel Correa still to come.
The teenage star made quite the recovery from his recent heart surgery with an MVP performance at the U20 South American Youth Championships, and looks ready to take on La Liga next year. Neither he or Jiménez hold an EU passport though, so only one can stay with the squad.
We also have Léo Baptistão and Borja Bastón out on loan, both of whom currently following Diego Costa’s path of plying their trade out on loan with a view to earning their way back into contention at the Calderón.
Léo originally joined from Rayo Vallecano back in 2013, and is now back on loan with his old side and enjoying a similar season to the one that convinced us to invest in him in the first place. Despite a strong start, his form has dropped off and he is now without a goal since before Christmas.
An undoubted talent, whether Atleti stick with him remains to be seen. It paid off in Costa’s case, but Léo doesn’t seem to have progressed a great deal since first breaking through two and a half years ago.
Borja on the other hand is making a name for himself this year with Zaragoza in the Segunda División, where he is the league’s pichichi with 17 goals.
The former canterano was once regarded as one of the top striking talents in the country, but saw his young career curtailed at 17 after damaging knee ligaments on his first team debut.
Now though, he has finally put his injury troubles behind him and is showing signs of maturing into a top class striker.
Next year maybe a little soon for a return, but you can expect to see him playing in La Liga before long.
How do you see the striker stituation? Are you happy with Mandzukic and Torres, or would you look to shake things up in the summer?