El Centrocampista

Atletico Madrid – a model of perfect spending?

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At the age of 31-years-old Emre Belozoglu isn’t necessarily a good footballer any longer, or more specifically, a good signing. When the Turk was announced as an Atleti player at the end of May eyebrows raised in unison from all onlookers as Atletico’s recent trend of transfer window brilliance seemed to have been bucked.

On a free transfer Emre is one of Atleti’s four signings this summer, the €1 million Getafe received for Daniel Diaz being the only fee paid out so far. Conversely over €20 million worth of players have left the Madrid club this calendar year including Eduardo Salvio and Alvaro Dominguez.

With Villarreal gone and Malaga in serious trouble, Atletico’s chances of getting back into the Champions League look to have dramatically increased; sweeping aside Valencia and Athletic in the Europa League its clear Atleti can compete with their direct opponents on their day, however the squad is seriously lacking the depth to compete with those teams for 38 games. Sections of supporters are rightly becoming worried with only a month left in the window; however a precedent has been set in recent seasons.

Atletico Madrid are the 2012 Europa League winners after defeating Athletic Bilbao 3-0, claiming back their trophy after a year’s hiatus following their extensively harder come from behind victory in 2010.

In between these two finals a lot has changed at Atleti, in Hamburg Quique Sanchez Flores managed his team to a win over Fulham with top scorer Diego Forlan starting alongside transfer record braking Kun Aguero with Simao and Reyes either side. Captain Antonio Lopez led the team out with potential captain David De Gea in goal and a midfield two of Paulo Assuncao and Raul Garcia.

After sweeping aside one Spanish opponent Diego Simone lead a team to victory with record signing Rademel Falcao at one end of the pitch, Falcao was this year’s top scorer, €40 million of the €45 million received from Manchester City for Kun Aguero was re invested straight into the replacement South American possessing the same build, balance and ability to score from anywhere with anything. Of Falcao’s golden boot winning 12 goals in Europe, two of those came in a dominant final the first with a curled effort off the Colombians weaker foot into the top corner and the second placed into the net after a cut back that’s execution will be difficult to better.

At the other end of the pitch another young spindly figure struggling to fill his jersey stood in goal, this time it was Chelsea loanee Thibaut Courtois who recently extended his stay by another year, much like De Gea before him Courtois grew as the season went on; Atletico have once again found a goalkeeper with the ability to win games in a position that historically would need at least another eight years to reach that level of maturity and confidence.

One of Atletico’s biggest talents is selling players at their peak maximising value helping them maintain a negative net spent while continuing to be a competitive team, making the teams debt manageable. Jose Antonio Reyes has recently underwhelmed after moving back to Sevilla in the January window while Diego Forlan, Thomas Ujfalusi, Simao Sabrosa and Florent Sinama Pongolle have all taken an accidental step towards retirement leaving Atleti to re-invest the €19 million received from those players and others into dramatically decreasing the average age of the squad.

Through that re-investment Atletico have found long term solutions to aid their team, pick-ups from other La Liga teams have been found tying players down to long term deals with their best years ahead. The likes of Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, Juanfran, Gabi and Adrian have shown improvement since moving and have created a solid base for the club to now build on.

Lead by sporting director Jose Luis Caminero, the men tasked with the responsibility of keeping Atletico competitive while selling more than they spend are currently succeeding. After winning two Europa League’s it’s time for Atleti to move forward in the league and back in to Europe’s premier competition with fourth spot currently looking available to anyone wanting to take it.

However, there is only a month left in the transfer window, until it closes fans will need to remain patient, if depth isn’t added supporters of Atletico Madrid could be questioning more than anyone else why the winner of the Europa League isn’t entitled to a Champions League place.

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