Since the arrival of Diego Simeone in January 2012, the club, and especially the team, have developed immensely.
Atlético Madrid are now one of the top five teams in Europe according to UEFA club rankings and financially, Atleti’s once sad reality is now becoming a much more promising future.
Since 2010, Atlético Madrid have won two Europa League titles, two European Super Cups, one Spanish Super Cup, one Copa Del Rey, and of course, the La Liga title. A total of seven trophies in the last five years.
In fact, the recent trophy haul is enough to make many ‘top’ clubs jealous except Barca, Bayern and maybe Chelsea.
Nevertheless, throughout this period of incredible growth, one area has remained unchanged; transfer business. Over the last decade, we’ve seen some incredible attacking talent pass through the banks of the Manzanares.
Atleti are a team well known for selling stars and replacing them with even better players, usually by spending a lot less. It was shortly after the sale of Fernando Torres to Liverpool that Atletico had put together a fearsome attacking quartet of Simao, Aguero, Forlan and Maxi. Which was, in my opinion, one of the best and most entertaining attacking lineups we’ve ever had.
That quartet brought with them 80 goals in the 08/09 season, which hasn’t been beaten since.
Even in the title winning 2013/14 season, Atleti scored just shy of that tally with 77 goals. Fast forward a few years, and there was yet another exciting quartet of Arda, Falcao, Adrian and Diego, which came immediately after the sale of Forlan & Aguero.
They didn’t score quite as much, but their link up play was better than their predecessors and they also showed more conviction in the important games of the season.
However, as talented as these attackers were in these mini ‘eras’, they were always coming in to replace, rather than improve upon what the team already had.
Whenever great attacking players came in, it was because a key attacking player, often even the top scorer, sometimes even two, had been sold by the club. Torres’s departure brought Simao and Forlan.
Aguero and Forlan’s departures brought Falcao and co. Falcao’s departure was an exception, but David Villa’s bargain deal should be mentioned.
And finally, last summer’s exodus involving Costa and Villa, brought in a host of different changes, including Griezmann and Mandzukic coming in to replace the dynamic, title-winning duo.
So what’s different this season?
Well to start, we’ve kept our top scorer Antoine Griezmann, after a season without any major silverware. Almost unthinkable a couple of seasons ago.
Over the past summers, even when we’ve won trophies that season, our transfer activity involved fighting (and often losing) to keep our prized possessions rather than searching for other players that could significantly improve the team.
So it’s quite a breath of fresh air to keep Antoine Griezmann, and add free-scoring target man Jackson Martinez – the top scorer in the Portuguese Liga for the last 3 years. It doesn’t stop there either. We’ve also acquired the services of the most promising La Liga striker of last season, Luciano Vietto.
With a full pre-season to get accustomed to their new teammates, both players joined the group at a great time as well. Looking beyond that, we have some of the best young talent in the game ready to pounce and rise to prominence. I’m looking at you Óliver, Correa, Saul and Carrasco.
This year, we are not rebuilding like we had to after the departures of Torres, Aguero, Forlan and more recently Costa & Villa.
Rebuilding is unnecessary when no key components have been lost. This year we have very much reinforced – in the truest sense of the word – for the first time in many years.
Some may argue that we lost some Turkish lad who was fairly decent. Personally, I don’t consider two goals and four assists in 28 starts enough to be a key player. Good luck to him, maybe he can score three goals next season! That should be worth every penny of that €34 million.
I can’t dive too far into the history, but in my 8 years of supporting Atlético, I have never felt this much potential for goals in our squad. To be clear, I would never trade our recent success just to have more entertainment/goals.
Still, I’d be lying to you if I told you that I don’t miss the old days, with Forlan and Aguero giving goalkeepers sleepless nights before the games, as well as Falcao making it seem like it was humanly possible to keep to up with Messi and Ronaldo’s scoring streaks (remember when he scored 5 against Deportivo?!).
But maybe, just maybe after this season, I won’t have to lie anymore.
Arjit is a long-time reader and Atlético fan from Canada – who is clearly excited about our signings this summer. What do you make of them?