It’s never easy for a club to sell their key player and come out better for it, but down in the south of the capital, Atletico Madrid have a knack for it. For almost a decade, the club have sold their key strikers, only to sign or bring through someone better in their stead. It started with Fernando Torres for Diego Forlan, Kun Aguero for Radamel Falcao and Mario Mandzukic for Diego Costa. Last season and before Mandzukic was signed, however, the club sold Costa and once again turned to South America for his replacement. One 19-year-old was making waves for San Lorenzo. He had just won the Copa Libertadores and was linked with some of Europe’s top clubs, but Atletico beat them all to the punch. Yet, just as the future looked bright, disaster struck.
The transfer fee of €8m was agreed and so was the player’s contract. The only thing that was left to be done was the medical. And it was there where the problem was found. During the medical, the Atleti doctors found that Correa had a heart tumour. The player was sent to New York in June and underwent surgery. Atletico said they were still interested in the player and stood by him. He returned to Atleti after his operation and started work on his recovery.
He began full training at the club in January but had to watch from the stands, although he got a chance to show Los Colchoneros his worth at the 2015 South American Youth Football Championship, finishing the tournament with 6 goals and as third top scorer. He then returned to Atleti and worked hard, before he was presented to the fans in the summer. His time had finally come and he was very eager to take it with both hands.
“I’m really enthusiastic, the worst is over and I want to enjoy what’s yet to come. I know the day I make my Atletico debut, I’ll think of my family and all the doctors that helped me overcome my health problem”, said the attacker at his presentation. He also thanked the club and his teammates. Diego Simeone warned about putting too much expectation on the player, but he also sounded excited about the player’s future. After the Under-20 tournament, fans too were really looking forward to seeing the player wear the famous Rojiblanco strip and they wouldn’t have to wait long to see it.
Correa finally made his debut against Las Palmas as a substitute in the first La Liga game of the season at the Vicente Calderon. He came on to great applause and made an equally-great first impression. His very good first touch, bags of pace, low centre of gravity and short stature had fans reminiscing about the days of Kun Aguero, while others have compared him to Carlos Tevez, but Correa is keen to be his own man.
Cholo has preferred to ease the player into action and so far only used him only as a substitute, but against Eibar he really showed his ability. He scored one superb goal and set Fernando Torres up for the second. Upon scoring the goal, he explained how his thoughts went straight to when he overcome the operation and returned to training. He then reiterated his support for his teammates and added that he knew that there was still more to come.
Nonetheless, even though he has made a great start, Simeone is not completely happy and has told the player that he still needs to work on some aspects of his game. Correa has welcomed the advice, however, and is aware that the Coach has been responsible for the bringing through of some of Argentina’s best young forwards such as Pablo Piatti and Luciano Vietto and so knows his career is in safe hands.
Right now, Atletico have four strikers on their books, leaving Correa in the knowledge that if he doesn’t hit the ground running, he will face periods watching games from the stands. Despite this, he has overcome some very difficult obstacles, fought for his place at the club and remains only 20.
With a very bright future ahead of him, and while he is keen to avoid the comparisons, he shares a similar style to Kun and this has excited many Colchoneros. He still has a long way to go to become a success, but should he become one, nobody would begrudge him it.