Atletico Madrid face defining summer of change

Simeone

Atletico Madrid are facing their biggest challenge of the Diego Simeone era ahead of a summer which is set to see an overhaul of their playing squad. Lucas Hernandez’s €80m transfer to Bayern Munich is likely to be the first of a series of exits from the Wanda Metropolitano this summer.

The loss of the 22-year-old France international comes as a significant blow to Los Rojiblancos, who have a series of first-team squad players seeing their contracts expire this summer. Squad depth has always been an issue for Diego Simeone’s side, with just 20 players in his current top grouping.

Simeone’s success in the Spanish capital has been based on solid defensive numbers and indeed it is widely acknowledged that the Argentine boss has built the best organised squad in Europe with tactical discipline and understanding key to shutting out opponents.

The depart of Lucas – who has already clocked over 100 first-team appearances for the club and won a World Cup – follows just a year after his brother Theo left for Real Madrid, and now presents an issue that the club are no longer able to retain their brightest talents from more powerful clubs.

Captain Diego Godin appears almost certain to leave on a free transfer this summer after nine seasons at Atleti, with widespread reports that he has already agreed terms with Italian giants Inter. Experienced full-backs Filipe Luis and Juanfran Torres are both out of contract this summer too and neither are yet to agree new deals, with at least one likely to depart.

Stefan Savic has had a high-profile fallout with renowned fitness coach Alberto Ortega, while there have also been reports that Santiago Arias – signed just last summer – could be sold if the right offer comes in. That leaves just one senior defender at the club: Jose Maria Gimenez.

Yet other players also appear likely to depart this summer. Midfielder trio Thomas Partey (release clause €50m), Rodri (€70m) and Saul Niguez have all been linked with moves to the Premier League, while Atleti are also said to be prepared to sell striker Diego Costa should an offer come in from the Chinese Super League. Rumours have also emerged linking Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona again.

There have also been questions over Simeone’s future in Madrid. After all, his side have failed to mount a title challenge this season and exited the Champions League at the Round of 16 stage, having blown a 2-0 aggregate advantage over Juventus. The next few months could prove decisive on the club’s future and Simeone’s legacy.

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