Simeone in a unique situation. For the first time Atletico is the favorite of the championship
Already with the departure of Messi, it became clear that Spain was waiting for an unusual season. Unusual – not in some emotional sense, but purely in a practical sense. Let’s compare the alignment of forces.
Barcelona – either the main favorite of the championship, or one of the two favorites in the last 15 years, have lost their main player of this period. Hit? Yes, colossal. And not only because Messi, for example, was the top scorer of the last season (the gap from the second place is seven goals). And also because the whole game was built around him. When the person who was at the beginning and at the end of each attack leaves, it is obvious that it takes time to rebuild.
Real Madrid are the same status, one of the two favorites of every season, from the past to the deep antiquity of the early 2000s. But he lost his coach, who was a key figure in recent successes. And Carlo Ancelotti is an adequate replacement in style, but definitely not a step forward. Taking into account the discreet transfer policy of the last season, it was possible to return the usual favorite status by strengthening the squad. And Florentino Perez tried. If Mbappé had moved to Real , it would have been not only an increase in the attack, but also a huge media victory: the League lost one of the best players in the world, but immediately got another. And he’s in Madrid. And even € 180 million is not a problem. It would have been a powerful statement of strength, but it didn’t work out. And only Alaba came to replace Ramos and Varan. WellKamaving , but this is a strengthening of the midfield for the future, not here and now.
To sports problems, you need to add image ones. Barcelona have no money, not only for transfers, but even for servicing salaries. To announce Depay and Aguero , they had to negotiate with the veterans about another reduction. Real Madrid are at the center of the war in UEFA over the Super League, which Perez is now defending almost alone. But he goes to the end and sues. True, he may win the trial, but not the information war – it has been lost hopelessly.
Remains Atlético. Diego Simeone won the championship twice in 10 years, a huge achievement for a coach who didn’t have Messi and Ronaldo in the era of Messi and Ronaldo. His limited resources organically complemented the philosophy and turned Atlético into a brand of sorts. Never favorites, but always somewhere nearby and always ready to take advantage of the weakness of the flagships. These are pirates, but the further, the more – by their own choice. Because gradually Atlético got stronger financially.
A fact that proves to what extent the balance of power has leveled off: in the sum of incoming and outgoing transfers over the past five years, Atletico and Real are equal. Both clubs lost € 100 million. Real spent 688 million and sold for 584, Atlético spent 661 million and sold for 561. Real Madrid’s policy has changed a lot in recent years, for example, in the last two for players spent only 30 million (earned about 200). Yes, you can also compare the total budgets of both clubs, the salary fund – all this is noticeable in favor of Real Madrid. But we can no longer talk about the financial abyss.
As for competitiveness on the pitch, there is a result. Atlético won the last championship. And since then, Real Madrid have lost Zinedine Zidaneand could not – even for a lot of money – buy Mbappe. And Atlético didn’t lose anyone and took Griezmann on loan . This transition, completed in the last minutes of the transfer window, turns the season and makes it unique.
Firstly, this is the weakening of Barcelona again. Yes, Griezmann, unfortunately, did not play at the level that was expected of him. Yes, he has become just a minor character, useful as a team player, rather than a master of ball promotion and daring creative. But even this unfortunate version of Griezmann scored 20 productive actions in the championship last season. This is a great loss. Rented to replace him, Luc de Jong is a forward with a narrow specialization. He is good at heading and barely plays the ball – the exact opposite of Griezmann.
Secondly, Griezmann returns to the coach, who showed the best football in life and at the club, where he was shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or. And he does not even need to return to the previous level, it is enough just not to fail. Atlético has other heroes now, Suarez scored more than 20 goals last season, Correa has gradually become an indispensable player in the base, there is also Llorente, useful in any position. It is clear that Griezmann will find a place on the field, Simeone himself, at the end of the transfer window, said that he needed another striker, and Suarez, due to his age, would definitely not spend at a high level the entire season. But the alignment is such that Atletico as a whole will no longer depend on whether Antoine shows his best football.
This is what makes the situation unique. Atlético is the champion, but it has also strengthened the most. While Barcelona traded Messi for Depay and Luc de Jong , and Real Madrid for Ramos and Varan for Alaba , Simeone got potentially one of the best players in the league. The trade of Saul, a victim of psychological problems, for de Paul , one of the most creative players in Serie A last season, also looks like a strengthening.
Therefore, although with the existing Real Madrid and Barcelona it is strange to write, but on formal grounds for the first time the favorite is Atlético. The strongest team last season, with the least problems and the best reinforcement. An absolutely unique situation for the championship, and for Simeone himself.
Having won the first championship with Atlético, Simeone came third the next season, gaining 12 points less. But that team, albeit in some ways superior to the current one, did not have such a solid economic foundation. Barcelona were led by Luis Enrique and won the treble, while Real recovered from a transitional season (with Rafa Benitez) under Zidane. The rollback of Atlético was expected. Now the opposite is true. Not a Atlético win will be a sensation, but someone else’s win will be Simeone’s failure. But it’s not just about pressure.
The man who created a new force in Spain with an anti-glamorous style. A coach whose football is capable of inflicting physical pain on a neutral spectator, accustomed to associating Spain with Barcelona’s rearrangements and Real Madrid’s individualist stars. It was easy for him to build an underdog club, such a pirate brand. Now this is no longer possible. The feeling of the club must change. This is the main challenge for Simeone.