It seems the more Atlético Madrid change, the more they stay the same.
Despite a bevy of transfers this summer, you can expect Atlético to challenge for a Champions League place and more as long as Diego Simeone is at the helm.
The supporters who traveled to MetLife Stadium and watched Atlético take on their city rivals Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup caught a glimpse of the club’s new era. It is safe to say they left feeling pretty good about the direction their team is heading in.
The old faces were there. Diego Costa did the thing where he scores four goals and gets sent off. Some new faces showed up too. Record signing Joao Felix picked up two assists and a goal against his new rival to help spring him even further into the spotlight. Their eventual 7-3 win caught headlines across newsstands in Madrid and the rest of the world. The Spanish capital’s largest clubs are going through their own version of a rebuild, but Atlético beat Real to the first punch. Still, questions remain on how this new Rojiblancos squad will play.
The roster turnover is the most glaring difference between last year's Atlético team and their current incarnation.
Gone is long-time talisman Antoine Greizmann (although that may come as a relief for some Atlético supporters). Rumors of the French striker leaving for elsewhere have been floating around heavily for over two years. Last year, Greizmann made a thirty-minute video to reveal his decision on his future. He ultimately chose to stay, but the rumors never ended, and he finally left this summer for a reported $136.80 million to FC Barcelona.
Former captain Diego Godin is out the door as well, along with veteran defender Filipe Luis. The club also lost some of their younger players as well. Promising talents Lucas Hernandez and Rodri departed for Bayern Munich and Manchester City respectively in big money moves. The Guardian estimates that Atlético’s summer sales equaled £267.5 million.
Supporters most likely have faith in what their front office is doing given Atlético’s track record, though. In an updated version of their novel Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski reference a study conducted from 2011 to 2015 by the Financial Times which labeled Atlético as Europe’s “smartest” spending club. This was determined by comparing 68 of Europe’s biggest clubs’ wage bills with how well they did on the pitch. Atlético went on to compete in the Champions League final and win La Liga during that time span. It seems this summer they’ve continued their “smart spending.”
The money raised from this summer’s sales were promptly invested back into the squad, primarily towards Felix’s transfer. The Portuguese teenager took the world by storm at Benfica last season, and the expectations will be high in his debut season in Madrid. Spaniards Marcos Llorente and Mario Hermoso, Englishman Kieran Trippier, and Brazilians Renan Lodi and Felipe were also brought into the team this summer.
The heart of Atlético, however, has not changed. Jan Oblak’s world-class talent will still be between the sticks. Spanish internationals Saul and Koke will continue to boss the midfield and Diego Costa continue to frustrate defenders and score goals. Most importantly, manager Diego Simeone is still instilling his hard-nosed approach into his players. Although a lot has changed, expect to see the same tough Atlético Madrid team this season.