Atletico Madrid have entered a new era

No Griezmann, no problem for Atletico

Antoine Griezmann of Club Atletico de Madrid holds his daughter Mia during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Sevilla FC at Wanda Metropolitano on May 12, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.  (May 11, 2019 - Source: Getty Images Europe)

Antoine Griezmann of Club Atletico de Madrid holds his daughter Mia during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Sevilla FC at Wanda Metropolitano on May 12, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.

(May 11, 2019 - Source: Getty Images Europe)

Atletico Madrid is firmly into a new era after long-time Los Rojiblancos talisman, Antoine Griezmann vacated the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium for Camp Nou in a wholesome €120 million deal. Atletico would have preferred to hold on to Griezmann, who has been the club’s top scorer for 5 years. The club's strong disapproval of the secret negotiations that the Frenchman had with Barcelona before sharing his imminent departure with his employers vividly communicated their stance. However, the move was an inevitable one and long time coming as the world cup winner had already expressed his intentions to move in 2018. Besides Griezzy, Atleti have also unpacked crucial players during the transfer window that include Rodri, Lucas Hernandez and veteran defenders, Diego Godin, Juanfran and left-back player Filipe Luis. It all marks the end to an entirely different era, one that was Atleti's most successful spell led by Diego Simeone. The voids left by the departures will not be an easy task to fill but who better to take a stab at it other than the Diego Simeone.

As so often happens when a key player leaves a club, it becomes a challenge to find a player who can fill in the monumental role that they played, case in point, arch-rivals Real Madrid and Ronaldo. Atletico Madrid would then presumably struggle to replace the Frenchman and other players who have been instrumental in Atletico's success in recent seasons. However, Los Rojiblancos need to prove that the contrary is true, that the future post-Griezmann Atletico would be promising and that new players can rise to the occasion to continue the standards that Simeone has wonderfully set for himself. A tough ask, perhaps, but new signings are looking the real deal having already bolstered Atletico's confidence who could actually be ready for their first La Liga title since the remarkable 2013/14 triumph. Despite the odds, Atleti's newfound confidence looks to drive the campaign this season. Their performance in the first three games of the season shows that Atletico is hungry for a La Liga title. Exciting times lie ahead for Atletico Madrid as they launch their post-Griezmann title chase.

Joao Felix of Portugal in action during the UEFA Nations League Semi-Final match between Portugal and Switzerland at Estadio do Dragao on June 05, 2019 in Porto, Portugal.  (June 4, 2019 - Source: Getty Images Europe)

Joao Felix of Portugal in action during the UEFA Nations League Semi-Final match between Portugal and Switzerland at Estadio do Dragao on June 05, 2019 in Porto, Portugal.

(June 4, 2019 - Source: Getty Images Europe)

Joao Felix, the embodiment of Atleti’s new era

When you lose your crucial striker and highest goal scorer for the last five seasons, the struggle to find an equally good player that would seamlessly fit into the position in the present market, would be real. For a fee of €126 million, Joao Felix has proved to be a brilliant substitute for Griezmann in the attack. The young attacking midfielder is a creative and powerful forward, and there are few players in Europe today who have the potential to change the fortunes of an entire team more than Atletico's record signing João Félix. The Portuguese teenage sensation is of a calibre of his own with tremendous talent and ambition, who has been touted by former Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan, that he could help Atletico lift the title this season, while some think he's a future Balon d'Or winner. It's not far fetched to think that he holds the key for Atletico. In his breakout season at his former club, Benfica; he was vital in securing the Portuguese title, scoring 15 goals and served up 11 assists in 21 games. On the hunt for an attacking forward this summer, Atletico put up a cool €126 million; the biggest spend in Atletico history for the teenage sensation. It is a sign that Atletico is looking to invest in the future, rebuilding for a new era with a young player, one with more silverware. He is the perfect fit for the new look Atletico that Diego Simeone is building and central to this would be to develop the talented teenager's abilities that will carry Atletico forward. 

Diego Simeone believes that the greatest quality that Joao Felix has is the quick adaptation and versatility added to that, a strong desire to become better. Watching him play, deciphers why Los Rojiblancos would choose to break the piggy bank for this phenomenal talent. At just 19 years old, he has enough talent that shows potential to become the best in Europe. The move has also benefitted the young player as he tries to make a name for himself. In pre-season he scored three goals in 5 matches and had 4 assists, a more than impressive start.

 Are Atletico ready to be crowned champions?

Diego Simeone's squad is showing early signs of title form, posting three wins in three. It is more significant that while Los Rojiblancos have a solid footing this season, rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid have struggled to swoop their first three matches. Real Madrid are still battling with the departure of Ronaldo and despite purchasing an amazing arsenal of players coming into the season including Chelsea top man, Eden Hazard, they have not gotten into a recognizable dominant form. Atletico have also finished above their Madrid neighbors in the last two seasons coming into this new campaign. Public scuffles between Real boss Gareth Bale and injuries that have sidelined Hazard, Eder Militao, Rodrygo signal troubling time for people's champion, Zinadine Zidane. In the first three matches, Atletico have looked sharper and more organized than the squad at Bernabeau.

 Similar sluggish start for Barcelona has strengthened a title contention for last season’s runner ups. If not, there are still many opportunities for Atletico to grow, managing to push past Barcelona. Atletico looks like a more organized and confident side going into this season. The last time Atletico posted a perfect start as they have this season, was in their near-perfect title chase in 2013/14.

Assessing Los Rojiblanco's current squad

As a unit, Atletico is a solid squad that is youthful with some experienced players in the line-up such as Diego Costa. The Spaniard will lead in front alongside Alvaro Morata and Joao Felix. Costa’s performances, instinct and aggression are a set of skills that can make him highly influential for Atleti if the 30-year old were to perform at his highest this season. Alvaro who is on loan from Chelsea until 2020, where the plan is for him to sign on to the Los Rojiblancos permanently also completes a trio that has the potential to cause havoc in Spain and Europe once the UCL starts.

Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid chats with Diego Simeone, manager of Atletico Madrid after Godin's last home match for the club at the end of the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Sevilla FC at Wanda Metropolitano on May 12, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.  (May 11, 2019 - Source:/Getty Images Europe)

Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid chats with Diego Simeone, manager of Atletico Madrid after Godin's last home match for the club at the end of the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Sevilla FC at Wanda Metropolitano on May 12, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.

(May 11, 2019 - Source:/Getty Images Europe)

Simeone’s men also have a lot of talent to work with in the midfield, with the signing of Marcos Llorente from Real Madrid and Hector Herrera who will bring creativity. Ghanaian international, Thomas Partey who scored a crucial goal against Eibar in their third league match will become increasingly important after the departure of Rodri, proving more and more that he is a critical figure in the centre of the park.

Alteti are looking very different at the back this season, owing to the departures of Juanfran, Diego Godin and Filipe Luis. Simeone brought in Spanish defender Mario Hermoso from Espanyol for a €25 million fee to join the duo of Stefan Savić and Jose Giménez in central defence. Hermoso will play a vital role in the strengthening Atletico's defence while, former Tottenham right-back Kieran Trippier hopes to revive his title-winning ambitions on the continent.

 Conclusion

Atletico might be entering into a new era in their club history, but there they come into it blazing and ready to rise to the occasion. The player to watch is undoubtedly Joao Felix, the name that is buzzing in Madrid at this moment, the biggest reason for this newfound excitement and interest in what Atletico has to offer. The talented teen is set to reach peak form at the club where Simeone will develop and finesse his skills. The future for Atletico looks young, focused, ambitious and ready to dominate Spain.

 What do you think could be the biggest roadblock for Atleti this season?

Diego Simeone believes that the greatest quality that Joao Felix has is the quick adaptation and versatility added to that, a strong desire to become better. Watching him play, deciphers why Los Rojiblancos would choose to break the piggy bank for this phenomenal talent.
— Margaret Mandeya, FirstTouch Africa