Atletico Madrid are one of the form teams in Spain currently, having picked up more points than anyone aside from Barcelona since the World Cup. Winning five of their last seven in La Liga, and unbeaten in their last nine, they finally look as if they have found their groove this season.
It has been noted by many that that run started after Joao Felix left on loan for Chelsea. The Portuguese has been a constant source of debate for Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone, and the prevailing narrative has been that Felix’s exit has improved the atmosphere around the club.
However speaking to Cadena SER, Rodrigo de Paul has defended his former teammate, asking for common sense.
“Has Joao’s departure has improved the environment? I totally disagree with that. A bit of common sense, Atletico Madrid with Joao Felix was league champion. He did very well here and I think if he was here, the team would also have reacted.”
He did not see any link between the improvement and Felix’s exit.
“The fact that Joao has sought a way out does not mean that the group now feels better. Joao has always sought to have many minutes. Finally, he has decided that with the club, but he was a very good player and above all a great person, whom the dressing room loved a lot. I don’t think that Atletico or the group [are better] and that we are winning, because Joao left, far from it.”
With no buy option included in his loan deal at Chelsea, it is eminently possible that Felix returns to Atletico in the summer. The two clubs would have to negotiate a new deal, requiring more heavy spending from Chelsea after two windows of doing just that. Atleti will still be reluctant to lose their record signing for a cut-price fee too.