With four teams having all conceded 14 goals in La Liga so far, Atletico Madrid have either the fifth-best or the eighth-best defence in the division, depending on how optimistic a Colchonero is. However it will be far too low down that ranking for Diego Simeone’s liking.
The Argentine is on the verge of completing his 11th year at Atleti and has become renowned for a stingy defence, but that has deserted them of late. Last season the 43 goals they conceded in La Liga were the most that has been conceded since Simeone arrived.
Uruguayan defender Jose Maria Gimenez was injured for parts of last season, but did play over 2,000 minutes in La Liga, the most since 2016.
Injury has been a constant issue for Gimenez since he arrived at Atleti, despite quality performances for much of his time in Madrid. Never appearing in more than 27 La Liga games, his fitness issues have been problematic for both the player and the club.
This season he has remained mostly available, missing just four games through problems this season so far. However his performances, like those of his teammates, have been less than solid, as was exemplified by their fragility in the Champions League.
In the past Gimenez has been regarded as the present and future of their defence, but it was recently revealed that Atleti had four ‘untouchables’ in the transfer market – Gimenez was not one of them.
Fichajes say that Gimenez, despite his issues, will still attract interest from Manchester United, Chelsea and most recently Inter. Equally Atleti have been linked with Stefan de Vrij. It opens the question to a debate about whether they should keep Gimenez.
At 26, Gimenez still has many years ahead of him at the top of the game in theory. Save for recent seasons, Gimenez has been regarded as one of the finest defenders in world football ever since he came into the side as a teenager.
Blessed with strength, reasonable pace, quality in the air and strong in the challenge, Gimenez has all of the ingredients required of a top central defender. In addition, his Uruguayan schooling gives him an added edge and game intelligence that has been so successful in the 21st century.
On the flipside, the injury issues have been a consistent part of his career and never being able to count on him for a full season is a handicap for Los Rojiblancos.
His form over the past two seasons is also a matter of concern. It is difficult to tell whether this is more down to systematic issues which have made Atleti’s entire defence play poorer, or if his sometimes slow reactions are a more concerning personal decline.
This may well be their last chance to cash in on Gimenez and make serious money on the defender. Another season of insecure performances or continued injuries may convince other sides that he is not worth the risk of a major investment.
Hanging onto Gimenez would mean building their defence around him and Reinildo Mandava for the coming years, requiring a great degree of faith.
Should they decide to sell, it must be with the knowledge that they have a defender in mind who can perform at a level that will not lead to them regretting his departure. That defender would also have to be available at a much lower price. Ridding themselves of the value of a stalwart that is heading towards a decade at the club, which cannot be underestimated.
It may simply be that the player needs a fresh challenge. As with Simeone, whose deal expires in 2024, serious decisions must be made on the future direction of Atletico Madrid. Using Gimenez’s potential value to kickstart a revamp of the squad or holding onto the Uruguayan is one of those dilemmas.