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.
Rafa Benitez should plot Fernando Torres reunion at Newcastle United
Rafa Benitez should plot a reunion with his former superstar.
Newcastle United are reportedly in the market for new forwards this summer, with Rafa Benitez identifying the Magpies’ attacking output as a key weakness last term, despite their impressive 10th place finish.
The Spaniard is calling for the club to back him in pursuit of a “10 to 15 goals a season” striker this summer, with the likes of Salomon Rondon (Northern Echo) and Bas Dost (Marca) circulating around the Newcastle rumour mill.
However, both would likely break the Magpies current club-record of £16 million – for Michael Owen from Real Madrid in 2005 – and perhaps Benitez would be better served going for a former favourite.
Fernando Torres is a free-agent having left Atletico Madrid, following last month’s Europa League triumph and Newcastle should offer the 34-year-old a route back to England’s top flight this summer.
Under Benitez’s tutelage at Liverpool, Torres was widely recognised as one of the most formidable forwards in world football, and though his impact has diminished over the years, there’s no doubting the World Cup winner’s quality in front of goal.
The prospect of an elite level striker arriving at St James’ Park on a free transfer is a no brainier if the player can be convinced and the club should make it happen.
He knows the league inside-out, having made 212 appearances for Chelsea – where he won the Champions League – and with Benitez at Anfield, and he could instantly propel Newcastle’s attack to higher levels.
Becoming a crucial part of a new project on Tyneside would be enticing for Torres, as his unwavering desire and tenacity on a football pitch is something that cannot be questioned. He doesn’t seem the type to move to the States or China in pursuit of one last pay-cheque.
He has all the attributes to become a cult-hero at Newcastle, and the club should act now.
Will Liverpool regret missing out on Thomas Lemar last summer as Atletico agree deal?
Liverpool’s long-spanning target is set for a move to Spain.
Atletico Madrid are said to have agreed a deal with Monaco to sign French winger Thomas Lemar this summer, according to a statement from the official club website, which will leave a number of Premier League sides feeling disappointed.
The 22-year-old is currently away on international duty ahead of the World Cup, but both clubs are reportedly keen on finalising the transfer before then, according to Sky Sports.
The news will come as a blow to Liverpool, who have closely courted the player for a number of years – notably throughout last season – with reports from the Independent suggesting Lemar had chosen a move to Merseyside over Arsenal in January.
Jurgen Klopp reportedly made a £55 million bid for the player’s services last summer, but Monaco were unwilling to lose more key members of the team, having already lost Tiemoue Bakayoko to Chelsea, Benjamin Mendy to Manchester City and Kylian Mbappe to Paris Saint-Germain. That meant Lemar and new Reds midfielder Fabinho had to remain at the Stade Louis II for an extra season.
The Reds were expected to revisit their interest in Lemar this summer after the collapse of Nabil Fekir’s highly anticipated switch, as Klopp looks to bolster his attacking options having been reminded that squad depth is a powerful thing in the Champions League final.
Rumours surrounding the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri (Mirror) and Ousmane Dembele (Mirror) suggest Liverpool are still prioritising bringing in high-profile attackers and Lemar certainly belongs in that bracket.
His best return came a year ago, with the former Caen forward amassing an impressive 14 goals and 17 assists in all competitions, sparking the initial interest from Europe’s elite.
A year on, the Europa League champions appear to have won the race, and Liverpool will have to look elsewhere.
Newcastle should break club record for Atletico Madrid’s Kevin Gameiro
Newcastle United should break the bank for a marquee striker this summer.
Atletico Madrid striker Kevin Gameiro is looking increasingly likely to leave the Europa League champions this summer, in search of regular game-time, according to reports from Mundo Deportivo.
The French international has spent two seasons in the Spanish capital, but managed as few as 11 La Liga starts this term, often resigned to the bench in favour of the likes of superstar forward Antoine Griezmann and ex-Chelsea talisman Diego Costa.
Newcastle United are reportedly in the market for new forwards this summer, according to the Northern Echo, with Rafa Benitez identifying the Magpies’ attacking output as a key weakness last term, despite their impressive 10th place finish. And they should consider breaking the bank for Gameiro.
The Magpies have not broken their club transfer record for 13 years after buying Michael Owen from Real Madrid for £16m in 2005, but Benitez thinks that will have to change if they want a “10 or 15 goals a season” striker to lead the line.
And Gameiro would represent a serious marquee signing at St James’ Park, giving fans something to get really excited about for the first time in a while. And given a first team spot he would almost certainly best the numbers mentioned by the Spanish boss.
The club will have to seriously back the move, with the Spanish giants asserting that the 31-year-old will not be sold for any less than the £28 million they paid Sevilla in 2016.
He would be worth breaking the bank for though, as he has proved himself at the highest level for the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Sevilla and Lorient – winning an impressive four Europa League titles – while making 13 appearances for the national side since 2010.
Rumours surrounding the likes of Salomon Rondon (Northern Echo) are underwhelming for supporters, as the 28-year-old has failed to bag more than 10 goals in a domestic season, and it’s time to make a serious statement of intent.