Last season Atletico Madrid failed to hit the heights it had two seasons ago, when Diego Simeone’s team stormed to a La Liga title and came within 90 seconds of winning the Champions League. Instead, Atleti finished third, 14 points behind second-place Real Madrid and 16 behind Barcelona.
As has become almost customary for Los Colchoneros, Atleti has again seen a star striker depart the club, as Mario Mandzukic left for Juventus. But Atletico has managed to keep hold of last season’s leading scorer, Antoine Griezmann, and more importantly, Diego Simeone remains as the club’s manager, having signed a contract extension that will see him stay at the Vicente Calderon until 2018.
Defender Diego Godin has also signed on to remain at the club, despite interest from Manchester City, who were prepared to give the 29-year-old a huge pay increase in the hopes he could strike a productive partnership with Vincent Kompany.
Godin has been at the center of much of what has gone right for Atletico since Simeone took control in December of 2011. The fact that the club has been able to hold onto the likes of him and Griezmann demonstrates just how complete a transition Atletico has made from selling club that players used as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things, to a club that is now expected to compete at the highest level in Spain and Europe.
In addition to retaining most of the squad from last season, Atleti has been bolstered by the return of Filipe Luis to the club. The Brazilian had a standout campaign during Atleti’s title-winning 2013-14 season. However a subsequent move to Chelsea saw the 30-year-old fail to reach the same heights. After one year in the English capital, Luis is back at the Calderon, where he says he wants to remain for the rest of his career.
While losing Mandzukic was a disappointment, Atleti has reinforced at the striker position, having beaten out the likes of Arsenal and AC Milan to sign Jackson Martinez. Martinez was a prolific goal scorer at Porto and follows in the footsteps of fellow Colombian Radamel Falcao in moving from Porto to the Calderon. Despite rumors that the 28-year-old may not yet be up to the fitness required under Simeone, expectations around Martinez are high, with Atleti fans hoping the Colombian can strike a productive partnership with Griezmann.
Despite the mostly good news surrounding Atletico this offseason, there are few positives that can be taken from losing Arda Turan to Barcelona earlier this summer. Although the Turkish playmaker won’t actually be able to join the Blaugrana until January due to a transfer ban the Catalan club has been hit with, his loss to Atletico is hard to understate. Barring any new signings between now and September 1, when the transfer window shuts, Atletico will be looking at Oliver Torres to take up the creative midfield duties in Turan’s absence. Torres spent last season on loan at Porto and Simeone appears to regard the 20-year-old as a potential successor to the prolific Turan.
Atletico Madrid kicks off its 2015-16 La Liga campaign at home on Saturday, when it hosts newly promoted Las Palmas at the Vicente Calderon.