The ‘small club’ mantra doesn’t wash any more for Diego Simeone – Atlético Madrid are now a big deal and no amount of talking down can change that 

At this point, nobody believes Diego Simeone any more when he rants.

As he often does whenever someone brings up the issue, ‘Cholo’ has become quite persistent on driving the point home when talking about the budget and financial power of Spanish teams. “Football right now is a tough market. We don’t have the chances that super-powerful teams do of spending 150 or 200 million on a single player”, he said during an interview last week.

Indeed, Atlético hasn’t spent that in a single player. Instead, the current cash splurging this summer has peaked at ‘only’ $140 million on six players. One of them, Thomas Lemar, was bought at a whopping $81 million, making him the second biggest transfer of the summer after Cristiano Ronaldo’s $120 million move to Juventus.

Not bad at all, right?

Embed from Getty Images

Atlético’s coach has become a master of self-awareness and theatricality, bringing up Barça and Madrid’s insane spending capacity almost as much as his ‘partido a partido’ mantra in every single presser. Frankly, his reasoning is becoming a bit tiresome.

In its effort to add value to Atleti’s amazing competitive hunger, it ends up diminishing the size of a club who have grown incredibly under Cholo’s command. That ‘small club’ attitude is no longer valid nor believable. Atlético de Madrid are now a powerhouse; there’s no need to hide it from the public.

While Simeone publicly moaned about the transfer market, internally he asked for a big effort from his board. And the board obliged. The Colchoneros have made some of the best, smartest, highest-profile signings in 2018. Bringing Diego Costa back was a masterful coup. Adding Vitolo to their winger roster was already impressive. But this summer they have exceeded expectations.

And the biggest move isn’t even a signing. Broadcasted for every single country that bought the rights, Antoine Griezmann’s own ‘Decision’ delivered a huge blow to FC Barcelona and sent Atlético fans into a frenzy. ‘Se queda’, they boasted, ‘he’s staying’.

The French striker rejected Barça’s bid and signed a new superstar contract with his club, receiving one of the highest salaries in all European football. With Griezmann on board for the long term and coming off a successful Europa League, Atleti have sets their sight on a much bigger prize: the UEFA Champions League.

But, in order to get there, they needed more high-profile additions to help Costa and Griezmann in their quest. Enter Thomas Lemar, who became an Atletico player while the World Cup was ongoing and who will debut for Atletico as a new world champion. The former Monaco midfielder has youth, skill, passing abilities and can deliver plenty of headaches to the opposition. Having him, Costa, Griezmann and Vitolo as the four players up front means talking about one of the best vanguards in the continent.

Cholo also wanted to add new blood to the midfield. Simeone, who was 100% responsible for the conversion of Thomas Partey into a reliable player in that position, scouted young Rodri from Villarreal. Atleti swooped and made a move for a player who marveled El Madrigal fans in the 2017-2018 season. Rodri, who is bound to become an international player for Spain’s first team very soon, is the perfect replacement for Gabi, who left the club this summer.

More high profile enhancements: Gelson Martins, fresh from a bad experience at Sporting Clube in Portugal due to some problems with the players’ salaries, he was able to sign for free with Atlético. His wage will be huge, but the board considers him an excellent addition due to youth (he’s only 23) and ability to play on both wings.

Embed from Getty Images

The rest of the signings (right-back Santiago Arias from PSV Eindhoven, keeper Antonio Adan, Jonny for $8 million though he will play on loan for Celta…) also vastly improve on last season’s squad. And that’s precisely the point: Simeone claimed internally that his starters were good, excellent players and capable of going toe-to-toe with anyone, but that the squad lacked depth to be able to compete both in La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey.


Now, these newcomers are in Madrid and ready to please their manager and add their collective efforts to a roster whose might is comparable to Barça or Real’s… even though their coach will publicly insist otherwise to anyone who might want to listen. War tactics are also played in the press room.

Facebook Comments