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Hinchas y Jugadores - Atlético Madrid with Jeremy Beren (12th May, 2017)

Jeremy Beren is a journalism student who writes about Atlético on Follow him on Twitter here.

Also, follow Into the Calderón on Twitter here, like them on Facebook here, and check out their podcast Colchonero Chat here on iTunes.

A bit about yourself and your background

I'm Jeremy! I'm a journalism student at Arizona State University, just completed my first year there. I manage Into the Calderón, SB Nation's Atlético Madrid blog. I began writing there in Sept. 2015, and it's been great to have an outlet to write about Atlético and experiment with different types of articles - columns, ratings, reports, tactical analyses and especially our Colchonero Chat podcast, which I host on the site (find it on iTunes!).

How long have you been a fan of Atlético Madrid and what made you support them in the first place?

I became an Atlético fan during the 2012-13 season. I was relatively new to following football, and I was mesmerized by Radamel Falcao's poker against Deportivo in December 2012, so I decided to do a little research on the team (being a journalist and all). The more I learned about the club, its honestly quite weird history, the Vicente Calderón and the amazing supporters, the more interested (obsessed) I grew.

Given the transfer windows and the squad that was assembled at the start of the season, is Atlético Madrid where you want it to be?

Domestically, certainly not. Atlético have been out of the title hunt since November. Granted, it was tough to fortify in January given the transfer ban, but this summer's business was inconclusive. I'll discuss how each signing has gotten on below, but Atléti's transfer business has contributed to a pretty substantial regression in LaLiga - last season, Atléti challenged for the title until the penultimate weekend.

And on the day of this writing, los colchoneros are also set to be disappointed yet again in the quest for a first European Cup despite running out many of the same players that made last year's final. It's been a very inconsistent season and it's set to end without major silverware for the third year running.

Of the signings made this season, which one worked out the best/had the most impact and why?

Šime Vrsaljko has by far been the best summer signing. The Croatian right back came over from Sassuolo to provide competition for the 32-year-old Juanfran and ended up taking his place in the XI by the end of 2016. Unfortunately, he's been out for the past six weeks with a left knee injury, and Atlético have really struggled without him, his dribbling, his crossing. He is Atléti's right back of the future, and health permitting, he should hold down the right side for the next 5-7 years.

Kévin Gameiro has run hot and cold - colder in the big games - and hasn't fully convinced since his arrival from Sevilla, especially due to his hefty price tag (32 million euros). He is Atlético's second-highest goal scorer with 12 league strikes, but Diego Simeone needs more than that from his forwards. He's been a pretty good foil for Antoine Griezmann and the two have good chemistry, but there is serious concern that Atléti are going to have to dip into the transfer market once again in search of a forward due to the 29-year-old's inconsistencies.

Nico Gaitán was signed from Benfica, and the winger has been a huge disappointment. He was expected to add a new dimension to Atlético's attack as a dynamic, pacy dribbler with a great range of passing. Simeone hasn't always been thrilled with his work ethic and he has only provided a couple of assists to go with three league goals. He is almost certainly on his way out this summer.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Atlético Madrid this season? Any standout players?

Overall, Atlético have been solid as ever in defense. Jan Oblak continues to develop into a world-class goalkeeper, and Diego Godín and Filipe Luís have put together quality seasons in Simeone's vaunted back line. Gabi has been immense in midfield; the captain is wrapping up one of his best seasons and at 33 years old has been the side's best midfielder all season - not an easy thing to accomplish. I actually wrote about why Gabi has been so good here.

Antoine Griezmann has been the unquestioned star in attack, and I shudder to think of where Atlético would be without his 25 goals in all comps, along with his passing, vision and work ethic. He is Atléti's Lionel Messi, which is both good and pretty problematic, because when he doesn't play well, Atléti's attack collapses onto itself and team struggles to generate good chances. That continues to be Simeone's biggest struggle: getting consistent performances out of an attack that doesn't have a great #9.

Yannick Carrasco is an example of the feast-or-famine nature of this offense. Carrasco has hit 10 goals for the first time in his career this season and been brilliant on occasion, but the winger has also gone months at a time without having any impact whatsoever. It's that consistency that Atlético must find again in order to mount serious challenges on two or three fronts.

List some things you appreciate and some things you can’t stand about the club management. Rant away...

I have to give Andrea Berta and Jose Caminero credit for the work they have done as sporting directors. In conjunction with Simeone, the trio has identified players in this current side alone like Carrasco, Griezmann, Augusto Fernández, José Giménez and Diogo Jota (tearing it up on loan at Porto) and made them central to Atlético's development as an elite team. Finding diamonds in the rough is essential at Atlético - which still faces debt from years of financial mismanagement in the 1980's and 1990's - and Berta and Caminero are pretty darn good at doing it. For example, without the additions of Diego Ribas and Jose Sosa in January 2014, Atléti may not have won LaLiga and come within seconds of winning the Champions League. Berta in particular has been revered for his work and turned down offers from Manchester United and Paris-Saint Germain to continue in Madrid.

But these three haven't always been successful. The summer of 2014 brought Griezmann and Oblak to Atlético, but the transfer gurus also saw fit to bring in Cristian Ansaldi, Alessio Cerci, Raúl Jiménez, Mario Mandžukić and Guilherme Siqueira. Cerci is the only one still at the club, and that's only because his two loan spells ended and kept failing medicals that would have given him a permanent departure.

In 2015, Jackson Martínez and Luciano Vietto were brought in to bolster the forward line. They both stunk. Jackson lasted six months, and Vietto has been meh at Sevilla and will come back to Atléti this summer. They also brought in Matías Kranevitter - supposedly the next Javier Mascherano - last January, and life in Spain hasn't gotten off to the best start for him; he joined Vietto at Sevilla and will be joining him back at Atléti in July.

On the whole, the inability to find Costa's permanent replacement has been the single largest indictment of Atlético's transfer policy - which has otherwise built a really great team.

As far as ownership goes...Enrique Cerezo is a movie producer who acquired the club through fraudulent means in 2003 and made us wear promos for his movies on our shirts. That said, he's still better than Jesús Gil, whose son is the majority stakeholder in Atlético and is the opposite of his loudmouth, populist father*.

*Shameless plug: I wrote about Jesús Gil on ITC about a month ago - check it out here!

Cerezo and Miguel Ángel Gil Marin have been criticized for initiating the move away from Estadio Vicente Calderón and into the Wanda Metropolitano, and also for announcing a controversial change to the club badge. The fans have been much angrier about the latter, but I personally don't care as much about the new look. No, I am more dismayed by the impending move to A Stadium Called Wanda. The Calderón is a massive part of Atlético's identity: standing next to a shuttered brewery on the south side of Madrid, overlooking the Manzanares, it is one of the most intimidating stadiums and atmospheres in Europe, and Atleti are going to lose that moving into the suburbs, into Real Madrid-supporting territory. A Stadium Called Wanda is going to be an innovative, state-of-the-art stadium that will make more money for the club, and that is a good thing, but Atléti will find it hard to replicate the atmosphere that has been cultivated at the Calderón over more than five decades.

What has the mood among the fans been during the campaign? Do you generally agree/disagree with them?

Generally, we're a happy, prideful bunch, but there's been a tinge of nervous anxiety this season among the supporters we interact with on Facebook and Twitter. Atlético fans really do echo the words of Simeone and live game-by-game, but the hyper-obsession with winning the Champions League has seeped into a lot of our conversations and our blog posts; every game can serve as a referendum on the team's (now almost-zero) chances to win that competition. There's belief that Atléti should be further along in its evolution in this, Simeone's fifth full season, and there's disappointment that the league title challenge this season was very weak - which I certainly agree with.

Are there any talented youngsters at the club that you expect to have a big future?

Saúl Ñiguez has to top this list. He's a do-it-all midfielder who lives for the big occasions. He's also three months younger than me, which constantly makes me wonder what I'm doing with my life!

Lucas Hernández is the center back of the next 10+ years for Atlético, and the hope is his younger brother Theo quits flirting with Barcelona and Real Madrid and suits up in red and white next season. They are both huge, huge prospects.

Kranevitter could be very good someday, just not sure if it will be at Atlético. Same goes for another midfield prospect in Thomas Partey, who has been tipped as a future star for Ghana. He's developed as an attacking midfielder this season, but he is a strong, quick, tactically astute CM who has proven a valuable depth option for Simeone.

José Giménez will be a massive player someday, too. He can play center back or defensive midfield and is tremendously gifted in terms of his athleticism. He needs to stop making mental mistakes and he has to stay healthy. Ángel Correa has been called the next Sergio Agüero, but his decision making and consistency must improve so he can nail down a starting spot. (He also needs to avoid betraying the club like Kun did.)

If you could make one realistic signing for Atlético Madrid this summer who would it be?

I want Dani Ceballos. That kid is going to be a star. He's young (21), he can dribble, he can pass, he can defend and he will slide in perfectly next to Saúl as the central midfield pairing of the future. Atlético were actually pretty close to getting Ceballos last summer, but Gus Poyet blocked his move in undoubtedly the smartest decision of his Real Betis tenure.

Finding the #9 Atlético need will be tougher, but I think Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be a great fit if he wants to come. I also would have taken Edinson Cavani, but he just renewed at PSG.

Finally, predicted finish for Atlético Madrid?

Atlético will finish third in LaLiga, 14 points behind eventual champions Real Madrid.


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