Diego Simeone embarks on a journey to build another world-class squad that can challenge for major honours. With the highest number of transfers amongst top clubs in Europe, here’s how Atletico Madrid‘s rebuild has gone so far.
Looking at Atletico Madrid’s Rebuild
Keeping Diego Simeone
Diego Simeone is one of Europe’s top managers. He’s won the Europa League twice and been in two Champions League finals. Domestically, he’s won the league and the Copa Del Rey. However, Simeone’s greatest achievement is getting Atletico Madrid into relevance amongst the biggest clubs in Europe. His project started with signing tough, competitive players and curating a fighter’s mentality within the squad. It was this mentality that broke the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga as Atletico won the league at Nou Camp in 2014.
The Argentine has garnered interest from top clubs across Europe ranging from Arsenal to Inter Milan. Arsenal were interested in him as Arsene Wenger’s time was coming to an end while Inter have a special relationship with Simeone since his playing days at the San Siro. Atletico have done a tremendous job in keeping their legendary manager at the club as they adapt to a new stadium and revitalize the squad with a rebuild.
Atletico have always had a solid spine to base their team around. This spine had some world-class talent in all areas of the field. Diego Godin marshalled the defence for almost a decade and his most recent partner, Lucas Hernandez, is also a World Cup winner. Both defenders have moved on as Godin looks to finish his career at Inter Milan and Hernandez has made a big-money move to Bayern Munich. Their most trusted full-backs – Juanfran and Felipe Luis – are also on the way out.
Rodri Hernandez, the most metronomic presence in midfield, has moved to Manchester City as they looked for a replacement for Fernadinho. Atletico have also moved on flop signing Gelson Martins to AS Monaco after his loan move was made permanent. They’ve also sold Luciano Vietto to Sporting CP in Portugal. Their most significant departure is Antoine Griezmann who scored nearly a century of goals in his five years at the club. His departure has both footballing and commercial implications for the club. The impact of such an exodus is obvious on any project, but Atletico seems to have a clear plan on repairing the squad.
Atletico’s rebuild will include strengthening in all areas of the field. They have the money to do so, with more than £250 million being generated from sales. The problem they face is that of clubs having knowledge of their large cash reserves. However, they’ve made some astute signings already. In signing Joao Felix for a club-record fee, they look to make him the next Antoine Griezmann as both players occupy similar spaces on the field. Felix also imitates the Frenchman in being more than a goalscorer. He drops deep to create and plays off a central, more traditional frontman. His performances will be key to Atletico’s new project.
Atletico look to supplement Felix with the creativity of James Rodriguez from city rivals Real Madrid. They’ve stepped up their chase for the Colombian as Napoli have cooled off their interest in him. The ‘Rojiblancos’ have made the transfer of Alvaro Morato permanent from Chelsea, adding numbers in attack.
However, the club’s key recruitment has been at the back, and these players will be crucial as Simeone will build the foundation of the team from the defence. The club has signed former Porto players Felipe and Hector Herrera, with the latter coming in as a free transfer. Both players were key in Porto’s run to the Round of 16 in the Champions League last season and have experience at a high level. Atletico seem to be doing a lot of business with Real as they sign La Fabrica graduate Marcos Llorente. The player seems a perfect fit for Simeone with his neat technique and combative nature.
Renan Lodi, a youngster from Brazil, looks to fill in at left-back for a significant fee of £22.4 million. Keiran Trippier has also joined from Tottenham Hotspur. His attacking prowess was there to see at the World Cup in Russia. His defensive limitations have been highlighted profoundly last season but a coach like Simeone will look to inculcate the defensive acumen in the Englishman. They also strengthened at centre-back with Mario Hermoso, who is one of the most sought after defenders in Spain joining from Espanyol.
Atletico’s season will be dependent on how quickly the new arrivals adapt to Simeone’s philosophy. If the transition happens quickly, Atletico have enough quality to compete with Real and Barcelona who are also rebuilding. The components are in place for a new Atletico Madrid, it’s time to make it big for Los Rojiblancos.