Atletico Madrid’s Champions League exit to Juventus denied their legends a perfect farewell. Now they face overhaul and uncertainty.
Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Juventus, which dumped them out of the Champions League in the first knockout round, will be a particularly tough pill to swallow for Atletico Madrid fans. Atleti dominated the home game so thoroughly, scoring twice, and were probably deserving of a larger lead come the full-time whistle.
Given the uptick in form that followed that first leg, the fact that they had failed to score in just five games leading up to this match and that their bogey team, Real Madrid, are out of the competition, there was rightfully some optimism (perhaps for the first time since before the season began) going into this game for Atleti. They were left bitterly disappointed by another lifeless display away from home, something they’ve become far too accustomed to this season.
However, no matter how hard it will be for Atleti fans to accept this loss, it’s unlikely to compare to the disappointment for team veterans such as Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, who looks set to leave the cub at the end of the season, and Juanfran, whose postponed signing a one-year extension on his current deal, which ends in June.
A first Champions League win for the club in their own stadium would have been the dream send-off for a core of Atleti players who have given so much to the club over the last decade. But they were outclassed in Turin, their season is effectively over and Diego Simeone will no doubt be planning for the inevitable overhaul of the squad next summer.
As well as the departures of Godin, Filipe Luis and possibly Juanfran, El Cholo will also have to tackle the issue of Diego Costa, who has disappointed greatly, having scored just seven goals in 33 starts for Atleti in the league and Champions League since returning to the club last January. Thomas Partey and Lucas Hernandez have also been linked with moves away from the Spanish capital, adding to Simeone’s problems.
Beneath the departures is also a concerning issue that has bothered Atletico Madrid since the 2016 Champions League final in Milan: They’re almost completely reliant on Antoine Griezmann to create and score goals. Maybe there isn’t anything inherently wrong with relying on individuals to make the difference, but it seems clear at this point Griezmann can’t do it alone.
For the second consecutive season, the Frenchman will be the only Atletico Madrid player to score double-digit league goals. Last year, the second highest goalscorer had six; this season that number is currently three. Outside of Griezmaan, no Atletico Madrid player has registered an xG higher than six over the last two campaigns. Griezmann is also Atleti’s most productive goal creator, providing seven assists so far. Angel Correa is next, with two.
Atleti are a Griezmann departure away from losing a majority of their attacking output. This is following a summer where Simeone spent big money on Thomas Lemar and Nikola Kalinic to try and solve this problem. Indeed, Simeone has burned through a lot of attacking talent over the last five years trying to find the right fit, and the club have suffered many a poor start to the domestic campaign as he’s experimented with a more attacking lineup, only for the each experiment to end in failure.
Given that he recently signed a contract until 2021, it’s obvious the Atletico Madrid board trust Simeone to figure it out, and he might have made one of his wisest transfers with the acquisition of Alvaro Morata (the club’s second highest goalscorer). Outside of these few positives, the future is still uncertain.