Atleti commence ‘operation 2015/16’

Wheels in motion behind the scenes as red and whites plan for next season

Big summer in store for Atleti

Big summer in store for Atleti

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?

  • iamfaried

    I’m quite optimistic. Cannot wait to see Oli back for some first team action!
    If I were in charge, I’d sign Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodriguez for left back. If Toby is sold them probably gamble on River Plate’s Alvarez Balanta.
    I still stand behind the notion of signing up young Yuri Tielemens, huge prospect in midfield. For the attacking midfielder I’d go with Bayer’s Çalhanoglu.
    Up front Lacazette is just a right footed Griezmann, but we need raw power so perhaps gamble on Venezuela’s Simon Romeron.

  • iamafraid

    I did not know about those Cholo confirmations (or I forgot).
    I don’t think we need drastic changes, formation-/tacticswise, I think having Koke in center midfield from preseason on and Oli, Correa and Arda in front of him will give the team way more offensive qualities already.
    I think that is more important than the new striker, enough creative (and fit) creative midfielders to reach a striker (or someone else running forward) will show bigger differences than someone who’s more dynamic than Mandzukic.
    But yes, I think another striker might work better, too. Who that should be is a big question mark, though. Maybe we should count on Jimenez and Torres, but a striker relying on his physique might prove very useful. Someone who’s also a good runner. Maybe give Lukaky a chance? He might be overrated (although he’s still 21 I think, some great strikers debuted at an older age than he is now), but I think he’d fit the profile. I’m afraid he’s expensive, though.
    But the left back position, although it’s not as bad as earlier on in the season, and central midfield are most necessary of refreshment.
    For left back I’d pick Alex Sandro or Rodriguez (like Faried mentioned), but I don’t really know them all too well. A good defensive midfielder to partner up with Koke and occasionally Gabi, Saúl or Tiago is harder to pick. I trust Cholo and his scouting staff in that department, though. As long as it’s someone with a cool head and good passing, and not a new Assuncao.
    Has anyone kept up with Camacho’s progress the past few years? I haven’t seen many Málaga games.

    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • Adnan Khan

    Camacho has been solid and gained a lot more recognition in the football world. he will easily be good enough for Atletico. For left back i will pick Alex Sandro too. We won’t find any left back as offensive as him, but i honestly don’t know how good he is defensively. He have champions league experience too. But as we all know porto never let their players go for cheap :/

  • iamitunes

    If we only buy three players, we could spend a little more. Maybe we could also add Insúa to the deal to lower the price.

    Also we gave them Adrián pretty cheap (lol)

  • Angelito Correa has just scored the 2 Argentina’s goals in the Sub-20 World Cup first match.

    I really think Correa and Oli together will be wild! 😀

  • Randy Ved Jawahir

    My team for next season
    Juanfran- gimenez/alderweireld- Godin- Filipe
    Xhaka/tiago – Koke
    Oli- Griezmann- Arda
    vietto/ torres/ lukaku

    alder/ gimenez
    tiago/ xhaka
    / vietto/ torres/ lukaku

    Loan out Jimenez

  • iamringo

    Why Xhaka over other possibilities for you?

  • iamyou

    Is Richardson always this strong defensively?
    If so he might be an interesting left back for us

  • Randy Ved Jawahir

    he reminds me of the way simeone was, a bully, aggressive and not a big fouler and works really hard all game. Only problem might be his price