Monday, May 27, 2019

Griezmann, Godin & Lucas – Atletico set for mass exodus?

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 15 May 2019

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Rewind to June 2018 and Atletico Madrid’s future looked secure. Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Hernandez had just signed new contracts.

The landscape has drastically changed since then. Star full-back Lucas will join German giants Bayern Munich, while talisman Griezmann – reportedly a target for Barcelona – has announced his intention to leave the Wanda Metropolitano.

News of Griezmann’s imminent departure comes after captain Diego Godin revealed he will call time on his Atletico career amid links to Serie A side Inter.

With Griezmann, Godin and Lucas leaving, and doubts over Rodri, Saul Niguez, Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Juanfran in Madrid, are Diego Simeone’s Atletico – who are set to finish second in LaLiga after a run to the Champions League last 16 and UEFA Super Cup success against rivals Real Madrid – set for a mass exodus?

Rodri

The 22-year-old Spaniard has reportedly emerged as a prime target for Premier League champions Manchester City. A product of Atletico’s youth system before leaving for Villarreal and returning in 2018, Rodri has established himself in Simeone’s XI. With Pep Guardiola desperate to find competition for Fernandinho and an eventual replacement for the 34-year-old midfielder, Rodri is seen as the ideal signing in Manchester, where City have struggled in the Brazilian’s absence.

​Diego Costa

The Spanish bad boy is set to leave the club. Costa’s latest stint at Atletico started well after returning from Chelsea in 2018, but ill-discipline (an eight-match ban for confronting an official during a loss to Barca in April) and a lack of goals have frustrated representatives. Just two goals in 16 LaLiga appearances and five in all competitions have left Atletico ready to part with the 30-year-old, who has won LaLiga, the Europa League and three UEFA Super Cups in Madrid. Napoli are reportedly interested as Atletico look to move forward with Alvaro Morata.

Saul Niguez

Another Atletico product, Saul continues to attract interest from Europe’s elite. The face of the club, along with fellow graduate Koke, the 24-year-old has been linked with City, Manchester United and other clubs. While Saul is happy to see out his nine-year contract, which does not expire until 2026, expect more teams to test Atletico’s resolve amid a flurry of transfer activity.

Filipe Luis

One of Simeone’s trusted players, a farewell is on the horizon for Filipe Luis. The 33-year-old full-back – in his second spell at the club having left for Chelsea in 2014 only to return a year later – is out of contract at the end of the season and available on a free transfer. Barcelona are believed to be considering a move for the Brazilian veteran, who attempted to force through a transfer to Paris Saint-Germain last season, to provide competition for Jordi Alba at Camp Nou.

Juanfran

The end is neigh for Juanfran. The 34-year-old right-back, like Filipe Luis, is coming off contract. Atletico are reportedly willing to offer a new one-year contract but the Spanish favourite – who joined from Osasuna in 2011 and has become one of the team’s greatest custodians – is set to leave Los Rojiblancos after more than 300 appearances in search of more regular football. With Juanfran poised to move on, it breaks up Atletico’s defensive core – including Godin, Lucas and Filipe Luis – and leaves a notable void in the dressing room.

Santiago Arias

After just one season, Atletico are reportedly ready to part with the Colombian right-back. Signed from PSV for €10million, Arias impressed initially. However, the 27-year-old has been unable to cement a regular place in the starting line-up. But with Atletico’s defensive pillar falling apart, Simeone could be forced to rethink ahead of a major rebuild.

Nikola Kalinic

The Croatia international’s future in Madrid is well known. Kalinic is expected to be shown the exit door after an unsuccessful spell at Atletico. He has only managed two goals in 17 LaLiga matches – seven of those starts – after leaving AC Milan at the end of 2017-18. While the 31-year-old’s proposed departure is no surprise, it will leave Atletico short up front with Griezmann leaving and Costa facing an uncertain future.

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