Atlético Madrid’s preparation for next season is already well underway, and after securing automatic qualification to the Champions League on Saturday, the idea now is to cement our status amongst Europe’s elite for the foreseeable future.
The red and whites may not quite have matched the heights of 2013/14 during the most recent campaign, but still managed to meet all of their targets and saw off strong challenges from Valencia and Sevilla in the race for the top four.
However, there are still a few issues that need to be addressed, and towards the end of the season these were becoming more and more apparent. Simeone has put his holidays on hold to sit down with the club’s hierarchy this week and try and put a plan into action.
Losing Thibaut Courtois, Filipe Luís and Diego Costa to Chelsea left a big hole in the starting XI last summer, and although Jan Oblak stepped up to the plate in March and looks like our goalkeeper for the future, all three of them have been sorely missed at times.
According to reports published in AS and Marca, the Vicente Calderón club have prioritised signing a striker, midfielder and left-back, and are prepared to offload Mario Mandzukic to make way for a new star name in attack.
The Croatian frontman made a good start to life in Madrid and scored 20 goals in all competitions, but it was obvious from the start that he wasn’t quite what Simeone was after.
Mandzukic was down for the cause, all season he battled for the team and gave it his all even when not fully fit, but he is a ‘rematador’, dangerous inside the box but not the all-action battering ram that Diego Costa was.
Thankfully, Antoine Griezmann was able to provide the pace and direct-running up top, but something was still lacking, and it ended up costing us no less than in the Champions League quarter-final exit to Real Madrid.
The press have teased us with a few names already, and the early frontrunner to make the move is Luciano Vietto, who is well-known to Simeone and has a 20m buy-out clause that the club will supposedly look to negotiate.
Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuaín were linked but aren’t said to be realistic. The likes of Jackson Martínez and Alexander Lacazette have also been mentioned, but so far the Villarreal striker looks to be the only rumour with any real substance.
We may never find another Costa, despite murmurs on Radio Marca last week from the reliable Javier Amaro that he hasn’t settled in London and is keen on a return, but there is one Chelsea player who could be making the move back before August 31.
Having failed to hold down a starting spot with the Premier League champions, Filipe Luís looks set to cut his losses and seek a new club. The Brazilian is still highly regarded at the club and is reportedly Cholo’s first choice, but would have to win back the fans having not left on the best of terms.
Atlético sent a delegation to the English capital last weekend, but the official word was that they were there to watch the play-off final and meet with Middlesbrough, who have links through board member Peter Kenyon.
Other names that could be in the frame include Nacho Monreal, Wendell, Alex Sandro and Layvin Kurzawa, and with Guilherme Siqueira having found his form in recent weeks, there will be an interesting battle at left-back next year with whoever comes in.
As is the case every year we can expect departures as well, but there are no indications that any of the main assets will be sold.
Still, that doesn’t stop the rumour mill, even though Koke and Godín have both underlined their intentions to stay. Griezmann’s name has also been linked with the likes of Bayern Munich and Chelsea, but Marca listed him as one of Simeone’s untouchables along with the aforementioned duo.
Mario Suárez and Miranda are expected to move on, but their replacements could well come from within. The plan is for Óliver Torres and Toby Alderweireld to return to the first team following successful loan spells, despite the latter publicly declaring that he would be happy to stay in England.
Simeone also confirmed back in April that Koke will drop into his natural role in the heart of midfield, and with a potential new signing likely to come in as a starter, it could mean that Gabi and Tiago have to take a backseat role next season.
Also coming into the squad are youngsters Lucas Hernández and Ángel Correa. The latter has fully recovered from heart surgery and has trained with the team since January, and will return for pre-season after playing in the Under-20 World Cup.
Anyone who was expecting a major overhaul during the summer or for Atleti to change their style will probably be disappointed, as both Madrid sports dailies agree that the idea is to keep as much continuity as possible and not make drastic changes.
The squad should be fairly small, no more than 21 or 22 players, with the focus on quality rather than quantity in regard to new signings. It may be a case of remaining patient for fans, but hopefully we will see a more balanced, competitive squad by the start of 2015/16.
Are you optimistic for next season? Who would you sign if you were in charge?