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A LOOK AT LA LIGA

From insanity to tranquility

Diego Simeone has more than steadied the ship.
Diego Simeone has more than steadied the ship. / EFE
  • Unlikely as it may seem, the formerly chaotic Atlético Madrid are now showing the rest how it should be done

Who would have thought that the club once considered to be the craziest in the world is now the model of normality?

Jesús Gil, the president who courted controversy, cut a figure like one of the Sopranos and changed managers as often as his shirts will be turning in his grave.

As the Premier League went into a deadline-day frenzy and Real Madrid continue to operate in a state of turmoil and Barcelona still have many questions to be answered, Atlético have completed the main business, replenished the squad and are eagerly ready for the new season.

This is a club that sold Antoine Griezmann to Barça, Rodri to Manchester City and Lucas Hernández to Bayern Munich yet in my view are the best prepared for this La Liga campaign. That's some statement considering they've also bid adiós to two of the mainstays of their success, Diego Godin and Juanfran.

Atleti have merely shed a skin and revealed a new layer. It looks good, very slick.

The money from Griezmann has been invested in João Félix. Few can truthfully claim to know a great deal about the teenager before the transfer made him the fourth costliest player in the world. The first impressions are very impressive; he's shone in the pre-season games so far and the signs are that he'll slip right in.

Who'll partner Félix from the 'Lost Boys' remains to be seen. Diego Costa looked his old self against Real Madrid until the old demons took control and he was dismissed. Álvaro Morata could be the latest player to rediscover himself under the management of Diego Simeone.

A new defence

Kieran Trippier, meanwhile, hasn't needed to master the language as coach Mono Burgos has wrestled him around the training ground, handling the England international like a puppet on strings. Atleti's defence has been a fort for years, now they've rebuilt the fort with new bricks. Renan Lodi, is a 21-year-old Brazilian who should start left back with Mario Hermoso from Espanyol and Felipe of Porto arriving to fight for places.

The team is built on the foundations of some of the best young talent in Europe. Jan Oblak has few peers as a goalkeeper; it's difficult to believe that Saúl is still only 24; Koke will relish running the midfield as the senior partner; and France international Thomas Lemar should flourish in his second season.

It's all looking incredibly well balanced. The key has been keeping 'Cholo' Simeone and, more importantly, keeping him happy. They call it 'Cholismo'. It's a vibe, a belief, a system.

His detractors, and there aren't many, say he's too rigid with his system. His detractors have never managed a club once regarded as a basket-case to two Champions League Finals, won La Liga and split the Barcelona- Real Madrid domination of Spanish football.

Why should he differ from 4-4-2 just to suit the hipsters who attach themselves to football? He keeps it uncomplicated and it works wonderfully.

He wanted to afford himself one luxury and that was James Rodríguez but that plan was blown out of the water when they humiliated Real Madrid in the States. They couldn't be seen to be allowing their rivals to acquire a player that may make them even better!

Simeone is content at a club where insanity was once the daily state. All is tranquil at Atlético Madrid. Normality never needed to be restored.