2013/14 was a year of unparalleled success for Atlético Madrid in recent times, and one of the key reasons picked out for this by experts is the acute sense of togetherness they exhibited throughout the campaign. Nevertheless, the performances of several of their key players were integral to their league title and sustained march on the Champions League trophy. Members of the squad such as Thibaut Courtois, Diego Godin, Gabi, and Diego Costa spring to mind, but Koke’s new-found role in midfield ticked all the boxes too.
The Spanish youngster with boundless energy and first class close control could be found plying his trade on either flank or in a more central region last season. The fact that he was able to influence matches in equal proportions regardless of starting location is huge credit to the game intelligence of such a young man. He made an impression on the first team during the campaign before last, but nowhere near the magnitude of this one. Both statistically and aesthetically, you had to marvel at his achievements. Koke seems to be possess the invaluable trait of having an old head on young shoulders, able to maintain his composure in unchartered territory at the top of La Liga. For the biggest sides in Europe, this makes him a highly attractive proposition and I’m sure they looked on in envy at the gem Atlético had discovered.
The statistics more than back up the argument that Koke had a hugely impressive campaign, both on home turf and in Europe. Spain’s midfielder notched up 6 goals and a huge 14 assists in the 36 league appearances he made. Furthermore, he was an ever present during Atléti’s 13 total games in the Champions League last year, also adding another strike and 2 assists to his name. To be able to perform to such a consistently high standard on so many occasions in one campaign is remarkable, and unlike many of his age, he did not suffer from the all too common affliction referred to as burn-out.
One of Koke’s primary suitors are the giants from Catalonia; Barcelona. They have already all but publicly declared this summer that fellow Spaniard Cesc Fabregas is not in the first team picture for next year and so are looking to cash in. The heavily rumoured £30 million price tag is not extortionate for one of the world’s best central midfielders on his day, but you feel that they are sourcing funds to replace him with possibly a more long term option. Koke; like Fabregas, can play all across the midfield line. However, in the last 2 years or so, Cesc has been deployed as a false number 9 when the situation demands it, a role I do not feel Koke could perform in particularly well. Having said that, if Barca are indeed looking to sell Fabregas, there are not many better options out there that spring to mind. He has youth on his side, a fantastic engine to help Barcelona all over the pitch, and he is already acclimatised to the La Liga competition.
Koke has also been heavily linked with a switch to England, and more particularly to Chelsea. The Blues officially lost long-standing club servant Frank Lampard on Monday and I don’t feel that any of their current crop of midfielders can step up to fill the void sufficiently. An interesting twist is that the Stamford Bridge club could well be a possible destination for Cesc Fabregas and, not only do I think that they do not need both, but by purchasing Fabregas they may inadvertently leave Barca’s door open for Koke. Atlético’s Spanish wonder-kid has tremendous work rate on his side, and this is something that Chelsea boss José Mourinho seems to value above all else. He has already acrimoniously sold Juan Mata to Manchester United after seeing him apparently not pulling his weight for the team, and towards the end of the season, you could start to see signs that Oscar was heading this way in his estimations too. Personally, I think that if Chelsea sign Koke to replace anyone, then it should be Lampard over Oscar. Brazil’s number 10 was nursing a hip injury during the latter portion of the season and I don’t believe his later performances reflect the true nature of his talent and potential.
Firstly, I think it’s important to state that I think Koke will leave Atlético this summer, but the Madrid club will do anything and everything to spark a bidding war and drive the price up and up. With the probable completed sale of Fabregas and the continued financial backing of Roman Abramovic, neither Barca nor Chelsea will be short of cash. In addition, both will not lack motivation either, with a midfield void burning deep into their aspirations for next season. I believe the first bid will be made in the region of £30 million, but if Atléti play their cards right, they could end up taking in no less than £40 million instead. While I don’t encourage clubs to sell their best players, Atlético Madrid have demonstrated an excellent youth system and financial prudence over the last few years, so I have no doubt that the next Koke is not too far away.