Amid the acclaim for the effective attacking of Radamel Falcao and the tactical acumen of Diego Simeone, the success of Atletico Madrid in recent months can equally be attributed to other areas of the park. Of particular importance has been the role played by Filipe Luis, whose impressive defensive and attacking contributions have re-established the player as one of the foremost left-backs in La Liga.
It was with Deportivo de La Coruna where Filipe first became recognised in the Primera Division. Regarded as one of the most exciting talents in Spain and coveted by both Barcelona and Real Madrid, a broken leg in January 2010 stalled his ever-rising progress. The wide player was nevertheless back in action by the end of the season, doing enough to convince Atletico Madrid to part with €13.5m. Although Filipe may have been back in action within four months, it took him over a year to reach the level he was performing at prior to his move to the capital, as he spent much of 2010-11 fighting with local boy Antonio Lopez for a spot on the left side, before finally nailing down the position last season.
The arrival of Coach Simeone in January 2012 further honed the Brazilian’s game. Always renowned for his attacking play, the 27-year-old has become an increasingly reliable defender under the stewardship of the Argentine. During Simeone’s first six games in charge, Filipe was part of a back four which kept consecutive clean sheets, whilst by the end of the campaign only Barcelona kept the opposition at bay more times than Atletico.
Individually, Filipe has also stood out. He was dribbled past a mere 15 times during the entire 2011-12 season, which compares favourably to the man keeping him out of the Brazil team Marcelo, who was beaten 44 times, despite appearing less often. It is a level of performance that has been broadly maintained as the club tasted Europa League success and have followed that up with an unbeaten start to the current campaign.
It was no surprise that the only match Filipe has missed this season coincided with Atletico’s solitary dropped points of the campaign, a 1-1 draw away to Levante. Meanwhile, closer analysis of the goals conceded by Los Rojiblancos this term reveals that only during one game – when the team collectively switched off at 4-0 up against Rayo Vallecano – did an opposition goal originate from Filipe’s flank.
Alongside the defensive solidity that has been installed at the Vicente Calderon, the Brazilian wing-back has brought an array of inventive attacking play. In Simeone’s 4-2-3-1, it is his foraging up–field that has provided the bulk of the width and no team in the Primera Division has spent more time attacking down the left-hand side of the pitch than Atletico.
Finishing off many of those moves has been the irrepressible goalscorer Falcao. Although the Colombian has taken well–deserved plaudits for reigniting Atletico, the significant role played by Filipe in protecting and attacking Simeone’s left flank should not be underestimated.