El Centrocampista

Atletico go shopping on the cheap as debt begins to bite

Frugality is not a word which has often been associated with Atletico Madrid over the past 25 years. Like many other La Liga clubs, los rojiblancos have consistently spent beyond their means, and allowed the debts to mount with seemingly not a care in the world. 

Last summer they owed tens of millions of euros in tax to the Spanish Inland Revenue, and promptly went out and spent €40 million on Radamel Falcao. However events so far this summer would suggest that the Europa League winners are finally being forced to face up to the harsh reality of their ever worsening financial predicament.

In recent times, it would not have been unreasonable to imagine that the huge success enjoyed by Diego Simeone in his short time at the helm would have been rewarded with a large transfer kitty over the summer. However so far the additions to the squad have been decidedly underwhelming by Atleti standards. Experienced ex Inter and Newcastle midfielder Emre has signed a two year contract after leaving Galatasaray under a cloud, following an accusation of racial abuse by ex Tottenham and Sevilla midfielder Didier Zokora.

Left winger Cristian ‘Cebolla’ Rodriguez has penned a four year deal after having been deemed surplus to requirements at Porto, and defender Cata Diaz has made the short trip north from Getafe to link up with los colchoneros.  Emre and Rodriguez have arrived on free transfers, and whilst the million euros spent on 32 year old Diaz would seem to be a very solid investment, albeit a short term one on account of his age, the two midfielders fall into the occasionally mercurial but generally unreliable category.

Meanwhile general manager Jose Luis Perez Caminero has taken a trip to Barcelona to try and persuade la blaugrana to loan out some of their talented youngsters for a season, with Cristian Tello, Rafinha, Sergi Roberto and Gerard Deulofeu all being targeted without success thus far. The most that seems likely to be spent on acquiring new talent would be the €5 million for exciting Argentinian youngster Valentin Viola which Racing Club de Avellaneda are believed to be asking.

However with reports circulating that the club need to find €8 million just to make it to the end of the month, the vultures of European football are closing in on some of Atleti’s prized assets. Striker Adrian is believed to be a €12 million target for Arsenal, whilst Manchester City are rumoured to be prepared to pay €50 million for Falcao.

Simeone does not wish to sell either player, and would prefer to raise the necessary funds by selling four or five others. However although Ruben Micael and Diego Costa impressed on loan last season at Zaragoza and Rayo Vallecano respectively, as did Raul Garcia at Osasuna, the target of €30 million can realistically only be reached with the sale of defender Alvaro Dominguez. A fee of around €8-10 million is likely for a player who recently made his debut for la Roja in a friendly against Serbia, and the signing of Diaz seems to have been made with this very much in mind.

One thing is for certain, and that is that the taxman has finally run out of patience. A commitment has been made to pay off a staggering €50 million of the debt by the end of the year, and it needs to be honoured. As long as this millstone remains, Simeone will be required to shop on the cheap, but such has been his impact that no one doubts his ability to keep the club in the hunt again next season for the Champions League places, especially if he can somehow hang on to both Adrian and Falcao.

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