Atlético may face a renewed challenge to repeat the feat of previous seasons, especially in a new ground, but with Diego Simeone anything is possible
Recently, Deloitte’s annual Football Money League report placed the spotlight upon Atlético de Madrid, arguably the club with the most steady, sustainable and consistent growth over the last decade both on the pitch and in the boardroom.
The spike in results is formidable: from navigating the depths of mediocrity to standing in second spot in the current UEFA club rankings, ahead of FC Barcelona and only behind Champion League and La Liga holders Real Madrid.
A closer look reveals more astounding figures: for example, the huge $267 million in earnings they had in the 2015-2016 season, which increased even further last year and will keep doing so if the Rojiblancos follow their plan. Before ‘Cholo’ Simeone’s arrival, the Colchoneros stood 22st in the rankings in terms of income for top European teams; nowadays, they stand now in thirteenth. In ten years, the club has almost tripled its income (from $94 million in 2006 to the current figure), surpassing clubs such as AC Milan, Inter and AS Roma.
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) August 9, 2017
Atleti’s economic ‘miracle’ is unprecedented, and only trumped by its spectacular performance both in La Liga and in the Champions League. Simeone and his staff’s role cannot be doubted with a yearly challenge to keep the team’s consistent and hard-working core while reinforcing it with quality players that usually make the difference in the midfield and up front.
Antoine Griezmann’s explosion a couple of seasons ago made him the crown jewel in this side, and this summer’s ability to keep the Frenchman has been one of the biggest coups in La Liga.
However, Simeone is bound to run out of his magic touch someday. It’s virtually impossible to keep up pace with a landscape full of growing transfers, millions in spending and European sides owned by foreign nations or billionaires.
Atletico’s venture in Europe has been outstanding, but it will be nigh on impossible to repeat a Champions League final appearance when teams such as PSG or Manchester City keep spending over $200 million every year in reinforcements or, in the French team’s case, in a single player. You simply can’t compete with that.
Simeone’s run on the bench has been amazing, but even such a charismatic manager will eventually wear and want a change of pace for his career. His present is Colchonero, there’s no doubt about that, but things become a bit fuzzy when looking from June 2018 onwards. Will he continue at his ‘home’ or set his sights in foreign ventures?
Inter Milan has been keen on signing him for the last couple of seasons, and surely top teams would be interested in contracting him. We’ll have to follow Cholo’s footsteps closely in what could become his farewell campaign.
Additionally, this year might be trickier for the Colchoneros in La Liga. Competition ought to be ferocious. Real and Barça are a given, sure, but sides such as Sevilla FC, Villarreal, Athletic Club, Celta or Valencia are ready to give the Madrid side a run for their money in the fight for the third and fourth spots.
And, in the reinforcements area, UEFA still has the transfer ban in force… so Atleti only could sign Vitolo and loan him to Las Palmas, in one of the most bizarre dramas of the summer, in order to bide their time until January 2018 comes around and they are allowed to add him to the squad.
This season could potentially become more worrisome for fans on the emotional side of things, as it will be the first year where they watch their team playing at a completely new home. Atleti’s move to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium will provide them will all the top-of-the-line bells and whistles associated with a brand new playing ground, but will surely lose some of the magic and atmosphere that made the Vicente Calderon so special for many years.
Supporters might find it a little weird at first, and that acclimatization period could harm Simeone’s game plan, which usually relies heavily on creating a high-pressure atmosphere that intimidates, hobbles and burdens the away team.
In conclusion, objective figures talk about a fantastic present for Atlético based on performance and results, but at the same time a set of new conundrums and challenges lie ahead for a club who has strongly grasped the ‘third-wheel’ seat to Real and Barcelona, becoming the only team capable of snatching a trophy from under their noses. Some may believe Atleti’s streak will soon end, but their claim lacks a fundamental piece of wisdom: never tell Simeone he won’t be able to achieve something.