With Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban upheld, the club will not be able to bring in any reinforcements this summer and must wait until January 2018 before they can sign again. Moreover, they must fight tooth and nail to keep the current squad intact as they head into their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
1) Keep hold of Griezmann at any cost
Contracts do not mean a great deal in modern football, but the club now need to take an aggressive stance over Antoine Griezmann. No player is more important for them and getting him to put pen to paper would be a huge statement, even if it only keeps him at the club for another 12 months.
While he inked a new five-year deal last year, rumours have circulated that he wants out and Manchester United appear to have started a Real Madrid-esque propaganda campaign surrounding the player, with Paul Pogba playing chief negotiator.
Put simply, Atletico cannot afford to lose the Frenchman without being able to dip into the market for a replacement. His goals, assists and workrate are all key. A new deal with a hefty wage increase, keeping the €100m buyout clause where it is so he can move on next year with everyone’s blessing, would be the best solution for all.
2) Work hard to keep hold of other key men
Jose Maria Gimenez has just 12 months to run on his deal and a new contract for the 22-year-old should be a close second on the agenda. Gimenez proved his worth in a number of positions last season — centre-back, right-back and defensive midfield — and the fact he is so versatile means he is a member of the squad Atleti can not afford to lose. They would need two or three players just to replace him.
With Lucas Hernandez linked to Man City and Jan Oblak’s stellar performances in goal seeing him touted as a possible replacement for David De Gea at Old Trafford, the club must ward off suitors. Likewise, Inter Milan’s interest in Angel Correa will have to be shunned, at least until January when the club can sign a replacement.
3) Make signings and loan them out
With the likes of Sandro, Vitolo and Alexandre Lacazette all touted for moves to the Spanish capital, Atletico have the chance to sign players and immediately loan them back out before recalling them in January. While Barcelona were able to “hoard” Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan for six months, Atleti cannot realistically do that given it is a World Cup year.
It would allow them to reinforce greatly for the second half of the season. Although a pact would need to be made between the two sides for the player not to be cup tied in European football and would take a great deal of good faith.
On the plus side, such an agreement would give the new men a few months of acclimatisation to their new surroundings before heading into a full-on Diego Simeone preseason next summer.
4) Get something out of their fringe players
Both Kevin Gameiro and Nicolas Gaitan will have breathed a deep sigh of relief when the news was announced. They will all get another bite at the cherry for Atleti and the club needs them to step it up.
Gameiro, to be fair, netted 12 La Liga goals in 30 games last season, which is not a bad return — but was tellingly overlooked in favour of a 33-year-old Fernando Torres towards the business end of the season. He has six months to convince Simeone he does not need to sign an upgrade.
Gaitan was lightweight and did not have enough ability on the ball. To say he flattered to deceive would be pushing it: he was dreadful. He is another who has been given an unexpected extra few months to save his career at the club and has it all to prove.
Some loan players will be able to return too: Luciano Vietto, Matias Kranevitter, Diogo Jota, Javier Manquillo, Emiliano Velazquez, Guilherme Siqueira and Amath Ndiaye among them.
5) Promote youth
Gabi, Koke, Saul Niguez, Lucas Hernandez and Torres are all first-team players that have come through the youth ranks in the Spanish capital and it is time for a new generation to shine.
Caio Henrique is an exciting attacking midfielder full of guile and has already made his first team debut. Nicolas Schiappacasse, 18, is a goal scorer impressing with Uruguay at the Under-20 World Cup, while Roberto Nunez is the UEFA Youth League record all-time goal scorer and has long been touted as the next “El Nino.”
They are just three who can bridge the gap and show Simeone that he already has top quality players closer to home.
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