Liga BBVA leaders and UEFA Champions League semi-finalists; it is no secret that Atlético Madrid have been irresistible this season. With Diego Costa, Thibaut Courtois, Diego Godín, Raúl García, Koke and many more putting together world-class performances week in, week out, Atlético have looked virtually unstoppable this season. But what is the secret to their success?
After the sale Radamel Falcao to AS Monaco in the summer for £51million, many fans and pundits alike were keen to see how Atlético Madrid fair with many speculating that Atlético would become weaker as a result of losing their main man up-front. Little did they know, Diego Simeone had an amazing plan in mind.
Many expected Atlético Madrid to shell-out £30-40million on a brand new striker, but that was not the case. The sale of Falcao allowed Diego Costa to step out of the Colombian's shadow and into the lime-light, which he has done to devastating effect. The money made from Falcao has instead been spent on all areas of the squad, giving the club invaluable depth. Not to mention, much of that money is yet to be spent.
This summer, Atlético Madrid renewed their loan of Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea. An invaluable deal. They also acquired the services of Dani Aranzubia from Deportivo La Coruña for free, providing cover for Thibaut Courtois.
Toby Alderweireld was purchased for £6million from Ajax. A strong centre-back who can provide cover for Miranda and Diego Godín, as well as for Juanfran at right-back. 18 year-old Uruguayan defender José Giménez was purchased for a mere £800K.
A very promising prospect. The exciting 21-year-old forward Léo was purchased for £6million from Rayo. A truly exciting forward with a big future. And finally, David Villa was purchased from FC Barcelona for £4.3million. Villa is an accomplished striker who is known for being clinical in-front of goal. Atlético were prepared for the new season.
During the January transfer window, a few changes took place too. Jose Sosa joined on loan from Metalist. A strong, technical wide-player who adds depth to the squad and provides cover for Arda Turan and Koke. Diego was purchased from Wolfsburg for £1.3million. Diego was already a fan-favourite at Atlético following his first tenure at the club during the 2011/12 season. Diego Simeone also loaned Léo out in order to give him first team football.
All of these deals have been essential to the success of Atlético de Madrid this season, and the future is looking bright. 19 year-old Javi Manquillo has broken into the first team this season, 19 year-old José Giménez has looked impressive, 22 year-old Koke has arguably been the Liga BBVA's best playmaker this season with a remarkable 6 goals and 13 assists. 18 year-old pair of central-midfielders Óliver Torres and Saúl are two remarkable talents with big futures at the club.
Diego Simeone has transformed this squad since the departure of Falcao, and to think he only spent £18.4million on new talent this season. Diego Costa has been a house on fire this season and has attracted major interest from Chelsea.
But should Costa leave, I have no doubt that Diego Simeone will find a way to replace the brilliant Spaniard with a top-class striker. Perhaps it would allow Léo to breakthrough and become Atlético's next great striker. Simeone will not be thinking about that just yet, but rather he will be thinking about how his side can clinch the title this season, and maybe, just maybe, a Champions League trophy.
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