As we discussed on our latest podcast, Atletico Madrid lost last weekend to Villarreal. But Cameron Dhaliwal believes everything is in place for the Rojiblancos to soon repeat the success of the 2013-2014 team.
On the back of Diego Costa departing the Vincente Calderon, many of the loyal Atleti fans felt deep disdain at the board and Diego Simeone, and many looked back to Simeone’s infamous stint at San Lorenzo, where in a similar scenario he departed, the mounting criticism from the media and fans too much for him.
The famous high-pressing passion-fueled team of 2013-14 had been disbanded. Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Thibaut Cortouis embarked for Chelsea, winger Adrian Lopez for Porto and young fullback Javi Manquillo to Liverpool. Many people saw the mainstays of the team leaving and panicked. They saw the board being money driven, and Cholo not being able to handle expectation. They didn’t focus on the incoming transfers of that season, as Atletico captured some of Europe’s most exciting talents for a cut price, and saw youth players emerge out of the shadows.
Angel Correa, recommended to Cholo by his contacts at his former home San Lorenzo, signed and in the diminutive dribbler Atleti possess a lethal talent, an offensive assassin whose name will be known worldwide before too long. Antoine Griezmann signed from Real Sociedad, a move that proved to the Spanish football world that Atleti could beat the big boys for the top players and that they are more than willing to pay top dollar to do so. Jan Oblak caused huge headlines for his display against Chelsea in the Champions League in 2015, but not many had heard of the sizable goalkeeper who moved in and out of the Benfica first team. Not many could have predicted that Atleti would find such a good replacement for Cortouis so quickly. Saul returned from Rayo after a successful loan spell and has proved since that he is going to be a top central midfielder, the heir to Gabi’s throne.
The same questions were posed this year, as star player Arda Turan was lured to the Camp Nou, Mario Mandzukic could not handle the pressure of the Vicente Calderon, and Toby Alderweireld chose Tottenham over returning to the Atletico bench. Cornerstone Miranda left for Inter Milan, dependable fullback Cristian Rodriguez went to Indepeniente and defensive midfielder and lynchpin to the 2013-14 team Mario Suarez went to Fiorentina. After a disappointing but expected 3rd place finish in 2014-15, the fans were seeing Borussia Dortmund’s downfall and wondering whether their team would suffer the same fate.
Once again, Simeone and the board made crucial transfers. In came the widely coveted Jackson Martinez, a cut-price Filipe Luis returned from Chelsea, young wing wizard Yannick Ferreira Carrasco – who gave Arsenal nightmares in their Champions League tie with Monaco – joined from Ligue 1, and Matias Kranevitter, one of River Plate’s best graduates, will be a fantastic defensive midfielder for years to come. Bernard Mensah, from Vit Guimaraes is a pacey central-attacking midfielder who can turn a game on it’s head, and Lucas Hernandez has emerged from Atleti’s B team to replace Miranda and will – in my opinion – become one of the world’s best centre backs. Finally, the talented midfielder Oliver Torres returned from Porto where last season he ripped Bayern Munich to shreds in the first leg of their Champions League tie.
Atletico have mastered the balance of keeping the current team fresh with talent but also allowing the B team and academy sides to flourish, constantly snapping up South America and Portugal’s most talented youngsters right from under the noses of the so-called big guns of Europe.
Despite a 1-0 loss to Villarreal on the weekend the successes of the 2013-14 Atleti team will be back, coming to a La Liga season near you.