Atletico’s Ansaldi loan & Griezmann move shows ambition
Atletico Madrid, 10/1 to defend their La Liga crown, have continued their savvy summer transfer dealings by acquiring flying Argentine full back Cristian Ansaldi, 27, on loan from Zenit St Petersburg.
The left back has been somewhat ignored for his national side, only gaining three caps so far in his career, but Atleti boss Diego Simeone is clearly keen on his compatriot.
Simeone has a proven history of uncovering hidden gems, creating a title winning defence composed of Filipe Luis and Miranda last term, even though the duo have been consistently ignored for national team duty with Brazil.
Los Rojiblancos have so far made a series of sensible signings to counter the departures of high profile players such as Diego Costa, Luis and David Villa, with superstar stopper Thibaut Courtois also returning to parent club Chelsea.
Simeone has so far snapped up former Real Sociedad star Antonie Griezmann, goalkeeper Miguel Moya, ex-Benfica boys Jan Oblak and Guillherme Siqueira, and promising Argentine attacker Angel Correa.
Atletico’s noisy neighbours Real Madrid gave their newest Galactico, James Rodriguez, a greeting worthy of a prince, whereas Simeone and co have, by contrast, welcomed their marquee signing of the summer, Griezmann, in a quietly confident manner.
France international Griezmann will step into the departed Villa’s shoes, likely starting from the left to drift in and supply goals and assists galore. His capture, with rumoured competition from Arsenal and Tottenham, illustrates that Atletico are far from a club in decline, and they plan for their success to be more than just a flash in the pan.
Simeone will be looking for the 23-year-old, who netted 20 goals last campaign and arrives for a reported fee of £24m, to link up with fellow new signing Mario Mandzukic. The Croatian will be key to Atletico’s aim to win back-to-back titles and improve on their second place Champions League finish.
After lifting the La Liga trophy last term, breaking Barcelona and Real’s decade-long stranglehold on the trophy, the underdogs are hungry for more silverware success.
New attacking pair Griezmann and Mandzukic will have their work cut out to replicate departed duo Costa and Villa’s work ethic, and will be expected to provide more than just goals.
Whilst Argentine Simeone could feel aggrieved at being relieved of the talented trio of Costa, Courtois and Luis by Chelsea, his side have done well not to suffer a Southampton-esque exodus.
Like Everton, some of Atleti’s most promising business has been related to contract extensions, with the Vicente Calderon faithful excited to see new deals for the likes of Juanfran, Koke and Tiago Mendes, with the trio set to continue at the club.
Miranda is another key player linked with an exit, with Blues boss Jose Mourinho apparently keen to dismantle the capital club’s first choice defence further, and lure the centre back to west London. Atletico president Enrique Cerezo has so far rejected the rumours, claiming: “I know nothing about that at all, and if I haven’t heard about it it’s because he’s going to stay, I’m almost certain of that.”
Cerezo also rebuffed claims that the club were interested in the trio of former Atletico forward Fernando Torres, Arsenal attacker Santi Cazorla and Manchester United poacher Javier Hernandez, stating “none of those players…are on our agenda”.
Simeone had, however, previously indicated an interest in Mexico star Hernandez, and a further summer striker swoop could see the ambitious capital club again challenge for the Champions League trophy, which they are 16/1 to win.