After a busy summer for Quique Sanchez Flores, in which six (well five, Tiago was there on loan last season) new players arrived at the Calderon, the hard work now begins. This Friday Atletico Madrid will face Internazionale in the European Super Cup before starting the 2010/11 La Liga campaign against Sporting de Gijon only three days later.
Last season brought two cup finals with defeat in the Copa Del Rey following victory in the Europa League, bringing the first trophy to the club in 14 years, this followed a terrible start to the season in which relegation was a genuine concern.
A ninth place finish with 17 defeats and 61 goals conceded, reflected the true state of a side needing reinforcements. The areas of concern look to have been addressed this summer with the recruitment of players to bring solidity to a well known porous defence and weak midfield.
The defenders Luis Filipe and Diego Godin are two players who have arrived that are very familiar with the Spanish league arriving from La Coruna and Villarreal respectively. After an impressive World Cup with Uruguay, the €10 million spent on Godin looks like a good piece of business and is a player who will be expected to help solve the defensive frailties, Atleti have become known for in recent seasons.
The arrival of Tiago, Mario Suarez and Fran Merida has increased competition for the two central midfield positions in the side. Perhaps it the free transfer of Merida that will bring the most excitement, after almost 12 months chasing the former Arsenal youngster. A midfielder who has been described as “an absolutely amazing player” by Arsene Wenger will have the responsibility to provide the passes to the four attacking players in the Atleti line-up.
Perhaps the biggest coup of Flores summer has been the retention of his 4 attacking stars. At the end of last season it would have been difficult to imagine Reyes, Simao, Forlan and Aguero remaining at the Calderon but remain they have.
Monday evening against Sporting will give us a clearer indication of where this team stand for the season ahead but after a quiet summer for most La Liga sides, Atletico are unique this year, outside the big two, to have reinforced and retained their current stars.