Diego Simeone has penned a new contract with Atletico Madrid and – in a mark of his importance to the club – will reportedly earn more than star player Antoine Griezmann.
The Argentine, whose seven-year tenure already far exceeds any of his La Liga managerial counterparts, continues apace towards Miguel Munoz’s record fourteen seasons in charge of Real Madrid. “I'm convinced this is the right step”, he announced. “I truly believe in this club and above all in the players, who are the ones who have pushed me to take this decision.”
CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin – who said the club is “living its best spell in over 115 years of history” – will hope Simeone’s signature triggers a number of the Argentine’s disciples to renew their own contracts, such as Jan Oblak and Lucas Hernandez. The future of the two has come under scrutiny in recent times, and the site www.apuestasdeportivas24.org has full odds on the future of the stars.
Los Colchoneros are certainly on an upward trajectory. The new stadium has been a key component, with its capacity increasing matchday revenues, Wanda’s naming rights contributing €10m a season, and other events swelling the coffers, such as this year’s Champions League final.
Having already won La Liga and reached Champions League finals with one of the lowest net spends in Europe, it will be fascinating to see how Simeone and technical director Andrea Berta deploy their new-found financial muscle.
They will likely continue to recruit players that are young and mouldable (the average age of arrivals since last June is 23) or available for loan, such as Alvaro Morata. The one big difference could be a once-a-year marquee signing, as seen in the past two seasons with the re-signing of Diego Costa (breaking their transfer record which had stood since Radamel Falcao’s 2011 arrival) and Thomas Lemar.
Morata’s arrival is intriguing. One wonders whether he’s been given game-time guarantees – as he won’t have wanted to swap Chelsea’s bench for Atleti’s – but Simeone clearly believes he can be a success in his rigid system alongside Costa and Griezmann: “There’s no question that Morata and Costa are compatible in a solid, structured team. Morata gives us different possibilities since he's a finisher striker. He’s an important player for us.”
With Costa likely to be reintroduced gradually after injury and a heavy upcoming schedule – starting with Saturday’s trip to Rayo and then the Champions League clash with his former employers Juventus – Morata won’t be short of chances to stake his claim. With a world-class stadium, top stars renewing and a side in consistent contention for honours, Los Rojiblancos will attract more talent.
There have been links to RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano and Gremio’s Walter Kannemann – coached briefly by Simeone at San Lorenzo – to replace Inter-bound Diego Godin. But perhaps most critical to the club’s future is rebuffing advances off the pitch from the likes of Manchester United for Berta, who has been a transformative figure. He has a strong relationship with Simeone but the lure of a new project with a wealthy super club may, in the end, prove too strong.