- Atletico Madrid may not have the spending power of chief rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid, but in keeping Antoine Griezmann, signing Thomas Lemar and adding a couple of other key pieces, the Rojiblancos are ready to contend for another Spanish title.
This week, Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone suggested that Los Rojiblancos 'must be creative' with their transfers if they want to topple the giants of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Good thing they are.
Many would suggest that keeping Antoine Griezmann away from Barcelona is just as good as a new signing. In a LeBron James-esque televised decision, the French international announced his intention to stay with Atletico. I'm sure the board would've rather he'd done it without all the fanfare, but happy they will be.
An addition of Thomas Lemar from Monaco is a big plus, with the red side of Madrid beating out Arsenal and Liverpool for the youngster's signature. The Guadeloupe born winger was a member of France's World Cup-winning squad, and will now link up with compatriot Griezmann at the Wanda Metropolitano. The attacking corps were further strengthened by the addition of Portuguese winger Gelson Martins, who signed Wednesday on a six-year deal after leaving a Sporting CP side that is in disarray.
"I feel the club is constantly growing in a strong maner and that's necessary for the growth of the team," Simeone said from Singapore, where Atletico is currently conducting preseason preparations as part of the International Champions Cup. “Gelson is a lad who's constantly improving. We saw it last year and his characteristics can help us, He'll give us competitiveness on the right wing and offensively if we play with three up front.”
The astute signing of Rodri from Villarreal places another key piece in such a jigsaw. The defensive midfielder's acquisition will now allow for Saul and Koke to play with more freedom. With interest in Jan Oblak and Diego Godin seeming to have fizzled out, two integral men look to be staying in Spain's capital as well.
A team that rarely concedes more than one goal a match, Atleti and their manager have put an onus on defensive structure and selfless work rates. With two of the world's most lethal finishers up top, Los Rojiblancos can have confidence in their ability to compete next season.
Finishing second in La Liga and winning the Europa League last term, Los Colchoneros are a system team that have had great success. Buying into Simeone's plan, the on field representatives aim to make the loyal fanbase proud.
Although the blue collar ambience of the Vincente Calderon stadium may have seen its last days, the lifeblood of such feeling transpires into the stands of their new ground. Atleti aren't Real, they aren't Barcelona. They don't lust for their rivals global reach either. Proud of where they come from, Atletico fans are for life.
With Real losing Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane in one fell swoop, Los Blancos have some thinking to do. Most likely followed by a rather large purchase. Whether the rumors of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar or Eden Hazard are true, it may take time for whoever Real's megastar is to settle. With Julen Lopetegui at the helm, new ideas and methods will be introduced. Pre-season may not be long enough for the coach to find out who his dressing room friends are.
Over in Catalonia, Barca are coming off of a domestic double. A resounding 5-0 triumph against Seviila in the Copa Del Rey final marked legendary figure Andres Iniesta's last Blaugrana game. With the ever dependable brilliance of Lionel Messi coming as standard, the rest of Barca's team isn't so assured.
With the phenomenon of Guardiola's 2008/09 side in its final embers, only Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique remain. New boys such as Philippe Coutinho, Arthur Melo, Ousmane Dembele and Malcom will no doubt become a success, but how well do they work in a system with Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic?
With Andre Gomes likely on his way out—and Malcom in—does Ernesto Valverde even know his best team? Last season's implosion to Roma in the Champions League quarterfinals raises doubts.
When Atletico won the division in the 2013/14 season, they pulled out a final day draw at Camp Nou to wrangle the title away from Barcelona. If not for Sergio Ramos' header in Lisbon, it could have been one of the greatest doubles in modern football history.
Going for their 11th league title this campaign, Atletico have retained key players, a loyal manager and added a few pieces of talent to the squad. There has been no need for a major overhaul, just tweaks that strengthen them as a unit.
Los Rojiblancos final game of this upcoming La Liga season will be away to Levante on May 26, 2019. Don't be surprised if they need three points to secure the title.