After a middling season for Atlético de Madrid, the club has not wasted any time in reinforcing, with some enormous outlays already going towards strengthening the squad with youth after some key outgoings. Club legends Diego Godin and Juanfran have left the club, while Bayern Munich secured the services of Lucas Hernandez after activating the French defender’s €80 million release clause. Antoine Griezmann and Rodrigo Hernandez also look set to leave the club in mega-money deals. But Atlético de Madrid manager Diego Simeone is ready to unleash the next generation.
First up is Marcos Llorente. Parting with €40 million to snatch the Spanish midfielder from crosstown rivals Real Madrid, Atleti are acquiring a player that is far better than his 39-game career at Real might otherwise suggest. During the 2016/17 season spent on loan at Deportivo Alaves, Llorente earned a reputation as an all-action midfielder, capable of covering enormous amounts of ground without being compromised from a technical standpoint. With the newly acquired number 14 jersey, formerly worn by another outgoing player in Rodrigo Hernandez, Llorente will be expected to slot straight into the same role, patrolling the base of midfield. Still only 24, Simeone will be able to mould Llorente into exactly the type of player that suits his physical and structured approach.
In attack, Atlético de Madrid have spent a jaw-dropping €126 million to acquire 19-year-old Joao Felix from Benfica. The Portuguese international has played just one season of senior football, but emerged from Benfica’s academy with an Mbappe-like trajectory, accumulating a monstrous fifteen goals and 7 assists in 1,736 league minutes last season. He then added a further three goals and one assist in 494 minutes in the Europa League, before being part of the Portuguese squad that won this summer’s UEFA Nations League. Not bad for 12 month’s work. Felix should slot comfortably into the role which will be vacated by the outgoing Griezmann. This second-striker role will see the 19-year-old work with and feed off the striker.
Lastly, in defence, Atlético de Madrid have ventured across the Atlantic to sign Athletico Paranaense left-back Renan Lodi. The 21-year-old is an adventurous full-back, whose two goals and three assists were crucial as the Brazilian club won the Copa Sudamericana in 2018. He backed it up with two goals and two assists in the Copa Libertadores this season. He will compete for the left-back starting spot with compatriot Filipe Luis who is now almost 34.
All these players will be on show when Atléti will open their International Champions Cup campaign on the 23rd of July against Chivas de Guadalajara. This will be followed by a match-up against bitter rivals Real Madrid, before a match with Italian giants Juventus, who knocked Atleti out of the Champions League last season. It will be a fantastic opportunity to gel players into new roles and new positions at new clubs before the league season commences on August 16.