New season the most exciting in recent history

Renewed attacking prowess means the upcoming campaign is one to savour

Atlético celebrate pre-season win

Atlético celebrate pre-season win

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?

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I’ve never stopped thinking : what would’ve happened if Maxi, Simao, Forlan & Aguero had a decent center midfielder and a decent center back ?! .. Could have won La Liga ?!
    Why not, back then, 76 points were enough to be champion .

    And I never understood : how we could afford 4 great attacking players but couldn’t sign 2 good defenders and a good goalkeeper ?!!
    Aguirre and Quique were very patient on Assunção and on Perea in his bad years, they insisted on them despite all their mistakes game after game and season after season .
    Now compare this to Simeone with Mario & Miranda, who played at the same positions as Assunção & Perea .. not good enough for the team, sorry, you’re out, even it was only one bad season like in the case of Miranda, but it was very obvious that the next seasons will probably be even worse .
    That’s why Simeone is one of the top 5 coaches in the world, while Aguirre left Atleti to Zaragoza then Espanyol and Al-Wahda of UAE, and Quique also went to UAE with Al-Ahli & Al-Ain, came back to Getafe and now he is at Watford .

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Everybody is so excited about the young talents : Oliver, Correa, Vietto, Carrasco & Saul, even people who are not Atleti fans, they are expecting big things from them .
    Well, me too, and expecting a lot of goals from Grizi & Jackson, but I’m expecting bigger things from the veterans : Gabi, Tiago, Godin, Raul & Torres .

    Without those we would be a team of kids who fall badly against big teams, like Arsenal with their 6-0 vs Chelsea two seasons ago and Porto of last season with their 6-1 vs Bayer, or like Villarreal who played much more beautiful football last season than Valencia, Sevilla & than us in many games, but they lacked the experience and the muscles .

    I’m very sure that Simeone realizes that, but I’m still upset that some fans don’t .
    It hurts me to read from some fans on social media that they have no problem about selling Raul Garcia to Athletic .. what should the man do more than he did in the last 3 seasons to prove himself to you ?!!

  • Ringo

    I like how Atleti won the EL in 2010, but I still think Quique was by far the worst coach we had in the years I followed Atleti. We were lucky with the rise of the likes of Koke and Simeone (among some others), because I feared Quique ruined us for years to come. Players became worse under his spell, Forlán went from one of the best strikers in the world to an almost useless player in a matter of weeks.

    The only player who played well under Quique was Reyes. And Quique is the only guy for Reyes. Perhaps he was like a second father, I don’t know.
    I always get angry thinking about Quique and I feel sad for Watford. They have some talented players waiting to be ruined, unless he gets fired soon enough.

  • Ringo

    lol at the Arda hate.

    I don’t hate him, but I do think he was our most overrated player. But after his departure you guys seem to underrate him. I think we just have to accept Barcelona was his dream, and not Atleti, it’s just not everybody’s. Sadly Barcelona is another team in Spain. Personally I’d pick another league for another experience over a team that might grab you interest just a little more, but apparently he does not, so whatever, bye mister Turan.

    He worked hard, very hard usually, he just was far from efficient. That’s also why he can’t save the Turkish national team by himself.
    He can pass and dribble very well, but somehow he doesn’t know how to use those skills in a way that end up in goals. Óliver is someone who creates a lot of chances, so I expect, but at the moment mostly hope, that he improves over Arda’s 6 goals.

  • Arjit Barua

    Gregorio Manzano deserves a shout for that title I think XD.

  • Chewie

    Don’t we have the most expensive squad in the last 20 years or so?

  • Chewie

    Agree absolutely. But that’s a big problem concerning all of things, not only foorball. Everyone’s talking about the fresh and the young but forgetting the unsung heroes who are Atletico’s foundation. Sure, they don’t get younger and better. But are they bad? Not even close. And as long as we have them, we can be sure that the young will be incorporated in the system more smoothly, they will have a chance to learn and adapt, to make mistakes and become stars while the veterans will quietly do their job.

  • Urban

    The squad is indeed super exciting but we all know what can happen if the hopes are too high… And even in pretemporada we still had clear troubles with penetrating tight defences. We are convincing on the counter, but the guys who came to improve our build up play still have to gel.

    This team is built to be a world beater in 5 years, but will it last for so long?

  • Ringo

    I still think Quique was worse, I thought the team was still getting used to Manzano’s tactics, even though it was taking too long. I think knowing they could have Simeone as a coach swiftened the firing of Gregorio. Manzano was only around for a short amount of time, and even though the tactics didn’t work out, I don’t think I could judge him based on those results. Also, unlike Quique, players did not become much worse under his management.

    In the end it’s all fine that he’s gone, since the hiring of Cholo proved magical.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    By their value, absolutely, they could worth 500 million .
    But by what they cost us, I don’t think so, this current squad cost us 194 million over 5 seasons, I believe we spent more than that in Jesus Pitarch’s era, and on players most of them were not half as good as what we have now .
    I remember clearly that in 2007-08 we were the top spender in La Liga with 76 million, a very big number back then, but we only finished 4th just by the head-to-head results with Sevilla .

    Unsung heroes you say ?! .. well, Jose Luis Caminero & Andrea Berta are on the top of that list .

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    People also have to realize that other teams are exciting too, Sevilla & Valencia lost some key players but they kept their backbones, signed good replacements, although not as good those who left, Bacca & Otamendi especially, but most importantly, they kept Emery & Nuno .
    Villarreal still have a good team, Athletic too, Real Madrid have been stockpiling players since mid of last season, and Barca, the sanctioned, had a better transfer market than Chelsea !

    Although I must say : Atleti have a much better depth than Barca, even if Arda & Vidal are eligible to play right now,
    Bartra, Vermaelen, Douglas, Sergi Roberto, Sandro & Munir vs
    Savic, Gamez, Raul Garcia, Saul, Vietto & Torres .. there is no comparison .
    And could anybody agree with me that even Rhafinha is overrated, and that Moya is better than Ter Stegen ?!

    But they still have a scary starting XI, so we should be cautiously optimistic .

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    Rafinha is overrated but Moya isn’t better than Ter Stegen.

    I’m so anxious for the start of the season, my only concern is if our squad will gel quickly and that’s not too much of a concern

  • Chewie

    I will agree that Moya is better than Ter Stegen 🙂 The German is overrated, the Spaniard is not. While some of us think Moya is not good enough, he’s certainly not bad. In fact, he made only one serious mistake last season after which he was benched. But even this mistake was not an idiotic flop.

    On paper, it looks like we can compete with Barca and Real, but in reality, Valencia and Sevilla (also Villarreal and Athletic) can cause a lot of trouble to anyone. One postivie thing is that they all play attacking football and will have a hard time penetrating our tight defense.

  • Urban

    What I think is worth also pointing out is that not only our squad is exciting but also some major clubs in europe do not look as strong as in previous years.

    FCB – practically speaking no decent bench at least until January, poor recent showings, severe ban for Pique for the start of the season, Messi is getting more and more chimeric and from the last games he is now in worse shape and FCB totally depends on him

    RM – still no decent striker (what is more Chicharito is gone), Rafa hasnt impressed for years now and he is a doubt, also poor showings in recent friendlies

    Chelsea – pretty deep crisis, they could not start the season worse, internal conflicts (Carneiro case), some key players seem off the form – Fabs, Hazard, Costa, Ivanovic .

    Of course I am not saying those clubs cannot have a great season this term I am only pointing out some current issues that did not haunt them in previous years.

    From the clubs Cholo labelled last year as the only teams in the world better than us only Bayern seems to be as strong as always.

    I think noone can deny that the signs promise a season to remember for us, but God only knows how it will all actually end.