MADRID – Atletico Madrid players and coaches must have awakened Wednesday morning with a bitter taste in their mouths akin to groups of hobos squinting their eyes open in Madrid’s famed Plaza Puerta del Sol with box-of-wine hangovers from the night before. Yes, last night’s defeat was bad, one of the worst in the storied franchise’s 115-year history.
Despite having a 2-0 advantage after its first-leg win on Feb. 20 at Atletico’s home pitch – Wanda Metropolitano stadium – the capital side was thrashed 3-0 by Juventus on Tuesday night in an epic Champions League round of 16 loss thanks to Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick in Turin, Italy.
This was a defeat so bad that pundits, coaches, owners and fans have openly criticized the team’s playing style and playmakers.
No one yet is calling for the head of longtime coach Diego Simeone as his defenders – of which there are still many – credit him with being the architect of the club’s last seven glorious years during which the team has hoisted seven trophies, including the 2013-2014 La Liga and 2017-2018 Europa League titles.
Yet, even Simeone is not completely safe in this post-defeat climate as he has not brought CL success to Atletico, having lost two CL finals, both to Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016, and now presiding over Tuesday’s Juventus debacle.
Nonetheless, if we suppose that Simeone will stay on, who will be gone?
Clearly some assistant coaches may move on after the season but a much larger number of Atletico players look likely to leave the capital club.
Uruguay central back Diego Godin, 33, is linked to a move to Italy’s AC Milan next summer, and the other 33-year-old, Filipe Luis of Brazil, whose contract ends at the season’s close, will likely be somewhere new by the summer.
Also, Spain striker Diego Costa has been linked to a move to China’s Super League and one of Simeone’s first players, 34-year-old right back Juanfran Torres of Spain, may also leave the club.
On the other hand, there are a few key players on the current squad who look to be safe for the foreseeable future such as Saul Ñiguez and France forward Antoine Griezmann (until 2026 and 2023, respectively), as well as outstanding goalie Jan Oblak of Slovenia, who is likely to sign with Atletico again.
Meanwhile, players like Thomas Lemar, Rodrigo “Rodri” Hernandez, Nikola Kalinic, Santiago Arias, Jonathan Castro Otto, Nehuen Perez, Gelson Martins and goalie Antonio Adan all have futures that are up in the air because they have all failed to live up to expectations of team leadership.
Indeed, this coming summer looks to be bleak for the capital side as Atletico’s management will not be able to depend on Champions League game revenue in their quest to rebuild a clearly broken team roster.