Atlético Madrid, the team that has been challenging the duopoly that reigns in Spain, might be entering its decline.
Players that have been crucial for Los Colchoneros success in recent years are now leaving the club. This leaves Atlético Madrid with a huge task at hand in replacing them and maintaining the immense strides they have made.
A total of five players have already announced that they will be leaving Atlético Madrid. Each of them have contributed a great deal to propelling the team to where it is today.
Perhaps the announcement that has garnered the most attention, Antoine Griezmann has stated he will leave Atlético Madrid this summer.
“I have made the decision to leave, to see new things, for new challenges, and it's with great difficulty that I've taken this path. It’s what I feel and what I need." pic.twitter.com/U3hAvlhQGA
— Ben Hayward (@bghayward) May 14, 2019
The Frenchman has become one of the world’s best attackers at the club after he joined them from Real Sociedad.
In the five seasons he has spent with the Rojiblancos, the World Cup winner scored over 20 goals in each of them. The most goals he scored in a single season was 32.
Clearly, Griezmann has been integral to the team’s attack.
Towards the end of last season, reports emerged that he would be leaving to join Spanish rivals Barcelona. Speculation rose and rose, piquing when the player had decided he would be releasing a documentary to share what his decision would be.
Antoine Griezmann playing for Atlético Madrid
Ultimately, it was a bit anticlimactic as Griezmann reaffirmed his commitment to Atlético Madrid and stayed. However, less than a year later, he has announced that he will leave.
The Uruguayan center back has become a symbol for Atlético Madrid, where he has well and truly cemented his status as a club hero. Diego Godín was reduced to tears during the press conference where he shared that he would be leaving after nine years in Madrid.
"I'm sorry, this is difficult." 😢
Diego Godin confirms he is leaving Atletico Madrid after nine years at the club. pic.twitter.com/mzp4LTH7AN
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) May 7, 2019
The commanding center back has been the rock at the back for a team that built itself around a sturdy backline. In the past four seasons, Atlético Madrid have conceded the least goals in La Liga. During that span, the most Los Colchoneros conceded was 29 goals while the lowest was an astoundingly low 18.
Diego Godín representing Uruguay
Although Godín wasn’t the only one responsible for this defensive strength, much credit must go to the man who was clearly the leader of not only the defense, but a leader of the team. This was exemplified when the captain’s armband passed from club legend Gabi to Godín after the former’s departure last season.
Juanfran and Filipe Luís
The pair of full backs have spent eight years at the club each.
Juanfran playing for Atlético Madrid
Juanfran and Luís together, along with Godín, made up three of the four defenders that started in the club’s only two UEFA Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016.
Filipe Luís (with the ball) playing for Atlético Madrid
As stated before, the major element to Atlético Madrid’s success has been their defense. Both fullbacks have been mainstays in the back four and have been key to the club’s defensive stability.
A teammate for Griezmann on the French World Cup winning team, Lucas Hernández is also on his way out.
Lucas Hernández representing France
At just 23 years old, he was a seemingly perfect option to help restructure the aging defense that now needs replacing. Now with his departure, the tally of defenders leaving Atlético Madrid reaches four.
Rumors of more moves away?
Although five players are already leaving the team, rumors circulate of even more. Players like Saúl Ñínguez, Rodri and Thomas Partey have been linked to teams such as Manchester City and Manchester United.
Saúl Ñínguez between his Atlético Madrid teammates Antoine Griezmann (left) and Lucas Hernández (right). Álvaro Morata is currently on loan for Los Colchoneros from Chelsea. Whether he is signed on a permanent deal remains to be seen.
Should these players leave, not only would the defense be in need of serious investment, but so would the midfield.
A vital summer for Diego Simeone
Atlético Madrid coach, Diego Simeone, has stabilized the club as the third best in Spain. Barcelona and Real Madrid enjoy a duopoly in the country, but Los Colchoneros have done their part to challenge their domestic dominance.
Diego Simeone, Atlético Madrid coach, at a press conference
In the last seven seasons, the lowest the club has finished in La Liga is third place. Between 2009 and 2018, Barcelona and Real Madrid won every Copa del Rey title, except in 2013 when Atlético Madrid won. This was the first time they won the cup since 1996.
In the 13/14 season, Los Rojiblancos managed the unthinkable, winning La Liga and overcoming both Barcelona and Real Madrid. The same season, they progressed to their first UEFA Champions League final in their history. Two years later they managed the same feat.
The past two seasons, the club finished in second, ahead of Real Madrid both times. What Diego Simeone has done with this Atlético Madrid side is incredible to say the least.
Now the advances the club has made is coming under threat. The departures of Griezmann, Godín, Juanfran, Filipe Luís, and Lucas Hernández threatens to end this era of success Atlético Madrid has sustained.
Available funds, but will the right players come in?
Griezmann has a release clause of around $140 million. Diego Godín’s contract runs out this season so he will be leaving on a free. Likewise, Juanfran and Luís will also be departing on free transfers. Left back Lucas will be moving to Bayern Munich after they purchased him for $90 million. A transfer previously discussed as part of the Bavarian’s own incoming shakeup.
All together, Atlético Madrid will have about $230 millions to spend, in addition to the transfer funds they had already set aside for this summer.
They certainly have the funds to find the necessary replacements needed, but the question is can the right players be identified and brought in?
Photo credits in order of appearance:
By Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31157599
By DSanchez17 from Hertfordshire, England – Copa del Rey – Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38054241
By Ailura, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT, CC BY-SA 3.0 at, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64365115
By Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31157592
By Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33331127
By Антон Зайцев – soccer.ru, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70484449
By @cfcunofficial (Chelsea Debs) London from London, UK – Chelsea 1 Atletico Madrid 1, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64636326
By Антон Зайцев – soccer.ru, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67422854