Joao Felix to Atletico: How Simeone's men could line up next season
There has been plenty of attention paid to the rebuild going on at Real Madrid ahead of the 2019-20 season, but city rivals Atletico Madrid are arguably in an even greater state of flux.
After years of relative stability under Diego Simeone, who has turned the club into one of Europe's leading lights, Atleti have a matter of weeks to recruit half a squad of players.
Juanfran, Diego Godin, Lucas Hernandez, Filipe Luis and Rodri will all be gone next term. It appears inevitable Antoine Griezmann will depart, too.
Even fringe men Santiago Arias and Thomas Partey have been linked with moves, potentially leaving Simeone with a skeleton of a team.
As Atleti's recruitment drive steps up a notch with the €126million arrival of teenage sensation Joao Felix from Benfica, we look at how the Wanda Metropolitano giants might line up in the coming campaign.
GOALKEEPER AND DEFENCE
Were Atleti not losing their entire backline before next season, a move for star man Jan Oblak might well have been a possibility. As it is, the world's best goalkeeper will surely stay put, having signed a new contract in April.
In front of him, Simeone's men have already brought in Felipe from Porto and he will likely partner Jose Gimenez, although depth might still be required in the centre of defence.
Agreement with @FCPorto over Felipe, pending International Transfer Certificate (ITC). The centre-back is to join on July 4 for the next three seasons.— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) May 28, 2019
https://t.co/xovSB4txLH #AúpaAtleti pic.twitter.com/ZiKOXKqjj8
Both full-back positions need addressing, with Barcelona's Nelson Semedo - under contract for another three years and with a release clause of €100million - an optimistic primary target on the right-hand side. Kieran Trippier of Tottenham looks to be available and has also been mentioned.
On the left, it is said Simeone wants a pair of options. Renan Lodi has already arrived from Athletico Paranaense, while Monterrey's Jesus Gallardo could be brought in as a mentor and more experienced competition for the 21-year-old.
With so much work to do in defence, Atleti might have preferred to keep the midfield together. Rodri's imminent switch to Manchester City puts paid to that, with the Premier League champions depositing his release clause at LaLiga headquarters on Wednesday.
Fortunately, Marcos Llorente has already joined from rivals Madrid to replace the former Villarreal linchpin in a reported €40m move. He made just seven LaLiga appearances last season.
Soon after Rodri's departure was confirmed, Atletico announced the signing of Hector Herrera on a free transfer from Porto. At 29 years of age, the industrious midfielder adds plenty of experience and should be a shrewd addition given his attributes and Simeone's system.
Arsenal's Granit Xhaka is apparently another option, yet Atleti will be desperate to keep hold of Saul Niguez and Koke, while Thomas Lemar will get another season to impress out wide.
Atleti had to go big for a replacement for Griezmann, who will finally depart - although his destination is still unknown. Joao Felix certainly represents that.
There will be huge pressure on the teenager to make the step up from Portugal to Spain, but Atleti could hardly have done more than to sign world football's most sought-after teenager.
Supposing Simeone sticks with the 4-4-2 that has served him well in the past, Alvaro Morata appears the most likely strike partner as he still has a year remaining of his loan deal from Chelsea.
But Diego Costa, Nikola Kalinic and Vitolo could all depart having failed to impress last season, while Gelson Martins has already gone. That leaves Angel Correa as the supporting cast in attack and out wide. Further reinforcements are surely needed.
POSSIBLE ATLETICO MADRID XI FOR 2019-20
Jan Oblak - Nelson Semedo, Felipe, Jose Gimenez, Jesus Gallardo - Saul Niguez, Hector Herrera, Koke, Thomas Lemar - Alvaro Morata, Joao Felix