It’s time to take a break from the transfer talk frenzy and look back at Atlético’s top five players of the 2010/11 campaign before they’re all shipped off to the highest bidder.
Or is it too late already?
5. Luis Amaranto Perea (Defender)
Coming into the season, Luis Amaranto Perea had been dismissed by all of us as a washed-up, unreliable and erratic has-been and borderline head case.
The centre-back was fully expected to be classed out of our match selection with the arrivals of Filipe Luis and Diego Godin, the return of Alvaro Dominguez and the expected permanent call up of cantera jewel Jorge Pulido to the first team.
Fresh new faces combined with young faces from the youth system were to usher in a revamped security blanket that was to make goalkeeper David de Gea’s job a whole lot less stressful.
In Rojiblanco circles, Perea’s name was lumped in with those of Valera, Antonio Lopez, Raul Garcia and Juanito as a symbol of a bygone era of Atleti miscues good for any number of blooper reels.
We quickly learned however, that the ‘Cirque du Atleti’ would be open for business for at least one more season.
The Colombian’s inclusion in this list is more a testament to our collective defensive ineptitude rather than through his own merit. Nonetheless, Luis Amaranto went on to make 38 appearances in all competitions this year, winning the starting job over 2009/10 breakout centre-back Dominguez.
Perea, the only active player on the roster without a career goal with Atleti and with less offensive spark than your average goalkeeper, was, for the most part, solid at the back throughout our disappointing 2010/11 campaign.
He had a memorable Super Cup performance and was amongst manager Quique Sanchez Flores’ handful of untouchables this season.
The 32-year-old’s 28 league appearances this year were just enough to break legendary Argentine defender Jorge Bernardo Griffa’s record of 203 caps by a foreign player at Atlético.
Perea wrote himself into the Rojiblanco record books by setting the new mark at 205 before a hamstring injury prematurely ended his season three weeks early.
4. Tiago (Midfielder)
It took some time for the veteran midfielder to get himself back into shape following his post-World Cup vacation, and indecision on the part of Atleti and Juventus officials delaying his arrival in the summer didn’t help too much either.
Tiago, who like Perea probably limped his way into this countdown, didn’t make his first start until our Europa League opener away at Aris. Quique didn’t hand him a spot in a starting XI in league play until match week five, a home tie versus Real Zaragoza.
As the season progressed, the former Portugal international’s form improved, though at no point did he live up to expectation. Put simply, in a squad whose midfield was defined by quantity rather than by quality, Tiago was the best at his position by default.
Towards the end of the season, speculation in the Spanish press suggested Atleti directors had already decided to part ways with Tiago, but new coach Gregorio Manzano has reportedly requested upper management to sign the midfielder up for another year.
While the 30-year-old isn’t the ideal candidate to build a long term project around, a veteran presence in the midfield wouldn’t hurt us any for next year’s experiment.
3. Jose Antonio Reyes (Winger)
Coming off of his comeback 2009/10 season, Jose Antonio Reyes pretty much made up for all the lost time spent unused on the bench or on loan in another country in years past with a single strike against Inter Milan in the Super Cup, our first and most important goal of the campaign.
Despite being a constant threat on the flanks with his blessed-by-the-football-gods assortment of weapons: speed, dribbling and razor-sharp passing skills, the winger went under the radar a bit in the first round of la Liga.
The former Arsenal man was just lying in waiting for the clock to strike midnight and bring on the new year.
Reyes has had a remarkable 2011 so far, scoring six goals and dishing out six assists in the second half of this past season alone. He was the most-utilised field player, appearing in 34 of our 38 league matches.
We’ll never forget when ‘la Perla’ made a pretzel out of Real Sociedad defender Carlos Martínez just before dumping the ball off to Mario Suárez for an assist back in April at the Vicente Calderón.
Spanish national team head coach Vicente del Bosque inexplicably took a pass on Reyes this summer, preferring to go with Atleti youth system product and now-Sevilla man Manu del Moral for the latest rounds of international duty.
While the senior squad snub caused a stir among Rojiblanco supporters longing for one of their own to don ‘la Roja’ again, Del Bosque probably did us a favour. The last thing we need right now is international exposure of the man set to be our primary playmaker next year.
Sporting director Jose Luis Caminero recently declared the 27-year-old “untransferable” following Galatasaray’s formal offer for him, but those of us suffering from the soon-to-be-officially-recognised medical condition of PTKDAS (or Post Traumatic Kun Departure Announcement Syndrome), are bracing for the worst.
2. David de Gea (Goalkeeper)
Unlike his cantera buddy Dominguez, goalkeeper David de Gea avoided a slump after his sensational breakthrough Europa League-winning 2009/10 season.
De Gea’s biggest moment in 2010/11, like Reyes’, came early: an epic penalty save in the dying moments of the Super Cup to salvage a 2-0 shut out in Monaco.
Our angel between the sticks played every single second of our league campaign, starting in all 38 matches. While he certainly had his bad days, most notably blunders against Rosenborg and Aris in our short-lived and disastrous Europa League title-defending effort, he routinely turned in dazzling displays of his extraordinary talent.
In Liga action, the 20-year-old went on to save two more spot kicks and nabbed 11 clean sheets; no small feat considering the unreliable state of our defence.
Obviously, the Spanish youth international, deemed by many as Atleti’s “new Torres”, was just too good.
With only a season and a half of first division play under his belt, David is set to join European titans Manchester United, where he will serve as Edwin van der Sar’s replacement.
Best of luck to you David!
AtléticoFans Player of the Season 2010/11:
1. Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero (Forward)
Right from the start, Kun graced us with a Super Cup insurance goal and a mesmerising run that ended in a goal by Diego Forlan in our blowout victory over Sporting Gijón to inaugurate the 2010/11 season.
Aguero was out to prove he was ready to take his game up from stratospheric to other-worldly levels.
Despite spending time watching matches from the stands early in the campaign following an injury resulting from a vicious challenge by Carlos Gurpegui in match week two at Athletic Bilbao, ‘el Kun’ went on to make 40 appearances, earn vice-captain designation, and net a career high mark of 27 goals in a season.
The alarm bells were sounded when Kun extended his contract and his release clause dropped from €60m to €45m back in January, but the wonderkid’s insistence that he wanted to stay for the long haul allowed us to catch some sleep at night.
In these last couple of years at the club, he became the heart and soul of Atleti and the essence of Colchoneronism. The 22-year-old allowed us to legitimately claim big club status, during a period in our history in which our results, week-after-week, belied such a bold claim.
No one would’ve imagined in the end though, that we would find out that even Real Madrid has more respect for the red and white stripes of our historic shirt than Sergio “I hope to stay for many more years” Aguero.
As Peña Atlética Centuria Germana president André Kahle so aptly put it, we all thought Kun was our very own Luke Skywalker, but he turned out to be an Anakin seduced by the dark side.
Rumour has it that Manzano wants to hire a team psychologist for next season. A therapist may come in handy once players begin to question their purpose in life without Aguero suiting up with them in the dressing room.
If Kun’s worldly adventures don’t pan out for him and by the end of the summer, like the prodigal son, he comes back to Atleti tail tucked between his legs and ready to add to his 101 career goal total at the club, many of us would gladly open the door to our hearts back up to him, no questions asked. Would you?
Do you think we wrongly left someone off the top five? Let us know who you feel should have been included, but remember, Perea is untouchable!