Opinion: Three players Atletico Madrid should sign to become title contenders again

Atletico Madrid have already been hard at work in the transfer market. But, there are three more players that can help transform them into title contenders.

Atletico Madrid have long shed the tag of the third wheel in the tale of Spanish football royalty. Los Rojiblancos have also backed this with some heavy investment in recent years, although very few of them have actually managed to pay off handsomely.

But, having gone five years without a league title, Atletico Madrid need to take a few measures to plug the gap on their rivals, particularly the consistent Barcelona side, to get back to the summit of Spanish football. Here, The Hard Tackle attempts to name three players who could be such a solution for Diego Simeone.

Milan Skriniar – Inter Milan

The ideal Diego Godin replacement. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
The ideal Diego Godin replacement. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

The departure of inspirational captain Diego Godin is sure to create a huge void at the back for Atletico Madrid. After all, it was the Uruguayan defender’s leadership that went a long way in ensuring that the defensive line remained disciplined and meant that the Colchoneros boasted the best defence, not just in Spain but across Europe.

While Felipe has come in this summer to take Godin’s place, the Brazilian will only be a short-term solution for Atletico Madrid, who still seem to be in need of a leader to take the mantle from Godin. For this, Diego Simeone should set his sights on Godin’s new club, Inter Milan, for Milan Skriniar.

The Slovakian defender has been a revelation at the back for the Nerazzurri over the last two years, having established himself as a mainstay at the heart of their defence. A strong defender who likes to break into a tackle, his style of play would fit like a glove within Simeone’s system.

Additionally, Skriniar is strong on the ball and likes to link up with the midfielders with precise passing, which ought to benefit Atletico. Most importantly though, despite his age, the Slovak has shown tremendous leadership abilities already and with Simeone at the helm at the Wanda Metropolitano, he should embrace that side of his game even more.

Finally, at 24, Skriniar seems to have his best years ahead of him and should thus, ideally strike a long-term central defensive partnership with Jose Gimenez. His supposed big-money asking price might not faze Atletico Madrid either.

Los Rojiblancos have proven, with the capture of Joao Felix, that they can pay the big bucks to get hold of their key targets. But, with Mario Hermoso being tipped to be on his way to the Wanda Metropolitano, this is a transfer that might not see the light of the day.

Nicolas Tagliafico – Ajax

At the right age to make the jump to a title winning side. (Photo by Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty Images)
At the right age to make the jump to a bigger side. (Photo by Douglas Magno/AFP/Getty Images)

One area where Atletico Madrid are lacking in numbers is the left-back slot, having seen Filipe Luis and Lucas Hernandez leave the club this summer. While they have sign young Brazilian Renan Lodi for the position, there is no other option at Simeone’s disposal for the left side of the defence. This is where Nicolas Tagliafico comes in.

Part of the electrifying Ajax side that took Europe by storm with their riveting journey to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, Tagliafico was one of those players that went under the radar, but were just as influential in their success as the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Hakim Ziyech.

The Argentine was an irrepressible left-back while marauding forward down his flank, which in turn allowed David Neres – the usual left winger – to veer infield and create overloads in central areas. With a pass accuracy of 84.8 percent, Tagliafico posed a consistent threat, leaving very little margin for error.

Interestingly, his pro-attack style at Ajax did not see him let up at the back either, with solid numbers of 2.3 tackles, 2.1 interceptions and 1.9 clearances per 90 minutes. These are numbers that match the tallies of Luis (2.6, 1.6 and 1.4, respectively) and Hernandez (2.5, 1 and 3.4, respectively), if not better them.

Therefore, there is no reason to believe that Tagliafico will not fit in Simeone’s system, if not better the outputs of Luis and Hernandez. And, at 26, he ought to be at the peak of his powers and should ideally provide his best years to Atletico Madrid. A player worth looking at, especially with Lodi the only left-back at the club presently.

Nicolas Pepe – Lille

The player to add dynamism in attack. (Photo by Remy Gabalda/AFP/Getty Images)
The player to add dynamism in attack. (Photo by Remy Gabalda/AFP/Getty Images)

A player who has been touted to be one of the hottest properties in this summer’s transfer market. In the wake of a scintillating 2018-19 campaign, the Ivory Coast international has burst into the limelight, reportedly attracting some of the best clubs in the world. But, it is Atletico Madrid who ought to sign the talented winger.

Angel Correa is the only naturally right sided player in the Atletico Madrid squad at the present moment, although Saul Niguez and new captain Koke have also been used on the right side of the four-man midfield by Simeone. However, with the duo also coming of use centrally and on the left flank, signing a natural option in Nicolas Pepe makes sense.

With 22 goals in Ligue 1, he was only behind Kylian Mbappe in the race to be the league’s top scorer last season. Add to it the 11 assists he provided over the course of the league campaign, and Pepe is just the kind of player who can add more dynamism and excitement in an attacking unit that has been sorely lacking both the qualities.

With Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata not being too prolific, the goals from Pepe would be like gold dust for Atletico Madrid. And, if the duo fail to deliver or are on the sidelines due to injury, Pepe can even step in as a centre forward, a role he has reprised a few times in his career.

One or two issues will need to be ironed out by Simeone, with Pepe not exactly the best of customers when it comes to defensive work-rate. But, with the player still developing, the Atletico Madrid boss could work on the problem.

Most importantly though, at 24, Pepe fits the profile of players that have been suggested by us, seeing as he has his best years ahead of him. An exciting young player who can take an often goal shy Atletico Madrid to the next level.

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