Atletico due another bumper season with Simeone at the helm
Atletico Madrid may have lost leading marksman Radamel Falcao to Monaco this summer, but they have a Champions League campaign to look forward to and plenty of reasons to suspect that their 2012/13 performance was far from contingent on the Colombian.
The Colombian hotshot will be a big loss to Atletico – 66/1 third favourites for the La Liga title in 2013/14 – as his 28 league goals amounted for near half those scored by Los Rojiblancos in 2012/13, but if there’s any club that can overcome such a loss it’s Diego Simeone’s men.
Falcao’s move is merely the latest loss of a striking hero to befall fans of the Vincente Calderon side, with Fernando Torres’ sale to Liverpool in 2007 followed by a double-whammy when both Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero bade the club farewell in the summer of 2011.
On that occasion the aforementioned Colombian came in to take up the goal-scoring yoke and his departure has been followed by a similarly inspired swoop for David Villa, who had found himself on the periphery at Barcelona.
Villa came for an initial down-payment of just £2m and brings bags of La Liga and international experience to their front-line, averaging more than a goal every other game at every club at which he was a regular starter, as well as for the national side.
His signing hasn’t been the only coup at Vincente Calderon this summer, with the news that Thibault Courtois – arguably the best stopper in the Spanish top flight last term – will spend another season on loan from Chelsea in the Spanish capital.
Courtois was just one of many Atletico players to impress during 2012/13, with youngster Koke emerging as leading creative force in a team that also boasts Diego Costa, Arda Turan and another compelling campaign from Juanfran at right-back.
However, perhaps the biggest coup of all is holding on to manager Diego Simeone, who managed Los Rojiblancos to their best La Liga finish of the century so far and had been mentioned in the same breath as many top European clubs towards the end of the last campaign.
Having joined the club in December 2011, Simeone – a club legend already, having won the league with Atletico as a player – piloted the side to a second Europa League title in three years as well as a fifth-place finish which ensured another season of continental football.
His first full season trumped that by some distance – with a whopping 20 points added to their total in 2013/14, along with a Copa Del Rey win and Champions League qualification.
Simeone has brought organisation and increased team-wide defensive coherence to a side which has often boasted great attacking players down the years and having recently inked a new four-year contract, his influence can continue to pay dividends at the club.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.