Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has THREE strikers on his wish-list to replace Diego Costa with Arkadiusz Milik at the top – but purse strings are tightening and he won’t be able to replace the banned England defender Kieran Trippier
- Diego Costa has terminated his Atletico Madrid contract six months early
- Napoli’s Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik is at the top of Diego Simeone’s wish-list
- Raul de Tomas and Loren Moron are among the other options to replace Costa
Atletico Madrid have drawn up a three-man shortlist to replace Diego Costa as manager Diego Simeone plans an assault on the second half the season with his sights firmly set on winning his second La Liga crown as a manager.
Simeone knows there may never be a better chance as a boss and does not want to weaken the team by not replacing the 32-year-old.
The feeling around the league leaders is that Costa, who had his contract terminated, forced his way out of Atletico six months before the end of his deal because he wanted to play for Julen Lopetegui at Sevilla.
Diego Simeone wants a Diego Costa replacement as they look for their first title in seven years
Striker Diego Costa left Atletico Madrid six months before his contract was due to expire
But Arsenal have also been credited with a keen interest in the former Chelsea man.
Top of Atletico’s wish-list to replace Costa is Arkadiusz Milik. The 26-year-old Polish forward would cost around €15million from Napoli.
Raul de Tomas and Loren Moron are other options. RDT, as he goes by on the back of his shirt, has 12 goals in 17 starts for Espanyol in the second tier. He is the fans’ choice to replace Costa. Atletico fans also like the idea of the club recruiting Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo.
That would reunite the Spain forward with Luis Suarez who he played alongside at Liverpool. But Aspas’ emotional allegiance to the Celta side he captains is likely to be an obstacle.
Moron is another possibility. He is currently out of favour at Betis after a difficult start to the season slowed down by a coronavirus positive. He has one goal so far but has only started one game and is well-respected in Spain. The 27-year-old was on Barcelona’s shortlist last season when they searched for a striker in January.
Atletico Madrid target Arkadiusz Milik scored 11 goals in 26 Serie A appearances last season
Iago Aspas, who played with Luis Suarez at Liverpool, is another name linked to Atletico
Espanyol forward Raul de Tomas (pictured on the ball) is the choice of the Atletico fans
Elsewhere Simeone believes he has the squad to get Atletico over the line. Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso is tempting because he would suit the team’s leaning this season towards three centre-backs and wing-backs.
But Atletico remain under huge financial constraints and they do have exciting Brazilian Renan Lodi and Belgium international Yannick Carrasco able to play the position.
Neither are the club likely to move to replace Kieran Trippier who is out for 10 weeks after his FA ban for breaching the association’s rules on gambling. The Spanish are still fuming that they will miss the previously ever-present 30-year-old while the national side – whose association’s rules he has been found guilty of breaking – will not miss him for a single game.
For all the indignation both at the ban and the way they have not been properly informed of it by FIFA, Atletico did sense a punishment might be coming Trippier’s way.
He had played every single minute of every game so far this season with the club knowing an enforced rest was likely on the horizon. They have Sime Vrsaljko back after a long-term serious knee injury.
Defender Kieran Trippier has also been banned for 10 weeks due to a betting breach
Simeone, meanwhile, suggested he could even leave Atletico at the end of the season
Vrsaljko suffered a cruciate ligament tear in his left knee in January 2019 while on loan at Inter Milan. He got back to fitness and came on in extra-time against Liverpool in the Champions League in March 2020. But when Atletico played Leipzig he was unavailable because of a positive coronavirus test, and in October he was still troubled by his left knee and underwent keyhole surgery.
‘He has been training well and looks strong, but you never know how he will respond until he starts playing matches,’ said Simone ahead of giving him almost an hour of Wednesday night’s win over Getafe that saw Atletico finish 2020 top of La Liga.
The alternative in the squad is Ricard Sanchez. Simeone highlighted the 20-year-old’s ‘attacking quality’ when asked about him as an alternative.
With repayment bills on their new stadium of around €200m and a wage bill close to €350m Atletico were forced into a round of pay cuts and temporary lay-offs when the pandemic first struck.
In the summer the sale of Thomas Partey was a welcome boost for the finances and had Manchester City upped their bid for centre-back Jose Gimenez they might’ve reluctantly allowed him to leave.
As Simeone heads into the second half of the season out in front the club must find the perfect balance between financial stability in precarious times and, after losing Costa, not blowing such a fantastic chance to win an 11th league title.
Atletico sold Thomas Partey to Arsenal to balance the books but purse strings are still tight
His frustration came to the boil on Wednesday night after Atletico were dumped out of the Copa del Rey by third-tier minnows Cornella.
He cryptically said he would try to make amends for their poor Cup performances ‘if we are still here next year’.
‘Things change all the time in football, and you have to be open to all possibilities. I’m very happy here but you have to be open to whatever the club decides,’ Simeone, who has a contract until 2022, added.
So for now, Atletico’s focus is the Laliga title race and, perhaps more pressingly, a new striker. Watch this space.
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