Is David de Gea's time at Manchester United coming to an end?

De Gea has spent a decade with the Red Devils but his form has been scrutinised in recent years.

A swap involving Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak could solve United's problems.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA OUT, OBLAK IN?

Manchester United are lining up a swap deal involving star goalkeeper David de Gea and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak, according to The Sun.

De Gea's future has been uncertain since Dean Henderson signed a long-term contract extension at United, who remain uncertain about the pair.

Spain international De Gea joined United from Atletico in 2011 and the Red Devils are prepared to offer the LaLiga giants a reunion in exchange for star Oblak.

 

ROUND-UP

- TV3 reports Barcelona have offered Lionel Messi a new contract. Messi's current deal is due to expire on June 30 and the superstar captain has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Saul Niguez is adamant he wants to leave LaLiga champions Atletico and Juventus lead the race to sign the Spaniard, claims Marca. United – long-term admirers – Bayern Munich and PSG are also interested.

- PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, says the front page of Friday's Mundo Deportivo. Zidane has announced his departure. Former Inter boss Antonio Conte, Castilla coach and club great Raul and Xabi Alonso – currently in charge of Real Sociedad's reserve side – are also on the list. Pochettino has also been linked with a sensational return to Tottenham.

Barca have held talks regarding goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Fabrizio Romano. Donnarumma's Milan contract is due to expire and his departure is already confirmed. After talking with agent Mino Raiola, Barca are set to decide whether to sign Donnarumma, who has also been linked with Juve and United.

- Premier League champions City are looking to smash their transfer record to bring in £100million-rated Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, reports the Daily Mail. City are also interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane – a target for rivals United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

- The Telegraph says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to sign a new three-year contract in Manchester. Solskjaer guided United to a second-placed finish in the Premier League, while the club were stunned by Villarreal in the Europa League final this season.

Barca are close to completing free transfers for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon star Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Ronald Koeman's men are also eyeing City's free agent pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

- FootMercato reports PSG have made an approach for star Milan full-back Theo Hernandez.

Chelsea and Tottenham both have strong interest in Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Jonas Hofmann, claims Sport1.

Tottenham have been linked with a host of big names as their search for a new head coach continues, but could they be set to turn to a familiar face?

Spurs dismissed Jose Mourinho last month amid an underwhelming campaign where they fell off the top-four pace in the Premier League, as well as crashing out of Europe to Dinamo Zagreb despite having led 2-0 from the first leg.

With speculation mounting around superstar forward Harry Kane's desire to leave, Spurs are getting busy.

 

TOP STORY - SPURS PLOT POCHETTINO RETURN

The Sun reports that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will consider if he can convince former boss Mauricio Pochettino to complete an astonishing return to the club.

Pochettino, who took Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final, is currently in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, who finished Ligue 1 runners-up on the weekend.

The Sun claims that Pochettino is unhappy in Paris and would consider heading back to north London, where he was sacked in November 2019 after a poor run of results.

Sky Sports also reports that Spurs are in talks with Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fresh from winning the Serie A title, Antonio Conte and Inter could split by mutual consent according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Inter are trying to cut their salary bill, offloading key members and restricting their off-season business, with those details not yet agreed with Conte.

- Sport claims that Barcelona have stepped up their pursuit of off-contract Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and they are close to a three-year agreement after his representative met with president Joan Laporta.

- Wolves are ready to sell midfielder Ruben Neves as they look to fund a rebuild after Nuno Espirito Santo's exit, according to The Athletic. They want £35million for the Portugal international.

- Sky Sports reports that Willian wants to return to Chelsea, barely a year after leaving the Blues for London rivals Arsenal.

- Bild claims that RB Leipzig defender Nordi Mukiele is being chased by Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen wants to stay with Barcelona and is not considering any other option with Borussia Dortmund not pursuing him, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Trent Alexander-Arnold received praise to go with his recall from Gareth Southgate as the England boss hedged his bets for Euro 2020 by naming a 33-man provisional squad.

The Liverpool right-back could yet face exclusion agony when Southgate trims his list to 26 next week, but for now Alexander-Arnold is back in the England picture.

Once seen as a player who would hold down the right full-back berth for England for years to come, the 22-year-old was dramatically dropped from Southgate's squad in March, with the head coach questioning his recent level of performance at club level.

Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier and Manchester City's Kyle Walker – both title winners with their clubs this season – look to be ahead of Alexander-Arnold, who may be battling Chelsea's Reece James for a place in the final group.

After a late-season surge to a Champions League place by Liverpool, helped by an improved Alexander-Arnold, the England head coach was left with a quandary.

"I could easily get drawn into individuals who might be in the 26, get myself in a mess," said Southgate in a news conference following his squad announcement.

"People feel I have an obsession with right-backs. I see four good footballers. Trippier can play right-back or left-back, Trent can play right-back, wing-back. I think he can play in midfield.

"In the last few days I've seen Reece James play right in a three, at wing-back, in midfield. We're going to a tournament and those sorts of flexible players that can fulfill different roles but are good footballers are going to be hugely important for us.

"We don't know how it will play out with injuries, what our best systems will be with people available, we've got too many question marks.

"That will all become far clearer. We know what we'd like to do, we've got good contingencies in place."

Southgate selected an expanded squad because of injury worries over the likes of Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson, the captains of Manchester United and Liverpool. By including Alexander-Arnold, Southgate at least delays any criticism over his exclusion, and it may be that a space opens up for the attack-minded defender.

Alexander-Arnold is a slightly different flavour of defender to Southgate's other options, as a player who had 13 assists in Liverpool's 2019-20 title-winning campaign and seven in the league season just ended.

James has just two Premier League assists in 2020-21 and Walker only one, with the City defender creating just eight chances compared to the 77 set up by Alexander-Arnold. Trippier assisted on six goals in LaLiga, however.

 

James, Walker and Trippier are all well ahead of Alexander-Arnold in terms of dribble and tackle success rates, and Southgate can be expected to be aware of such factors.

Alexander-Arnold's 2020-21 league dribble success rate stood at just 47.06 per cent, with Walker posting 53.33 per cent, James 65.38 per cent and Trippier 76 per cent.

In tackling success, Alexander-Arnold's 58.93 per cent success rate was beaten by his three right-back rivals, who each scored at least 63 per cent, led by 65.52 per cent by Walker.

The Liverpool man's attempted dribbles may at times have been high-tariff manoeuvres, given he regularly plays high up the field, but Alexander-Arnold loses possession at a rate that could give England problems. He gave up the ball 25.49 times on average per 90 minutes in 2020-21 league action, compared to 14.83 by James, 16.35 by Trippier and a mere 13.32 by Walker.

As Southgate toys with that big call, he must also decide whether Mason Greenwood, United's 19-year-old forward, makes the cut.

Greenwood scored just seven Premier League goals at one every 261 minutes in 2020-21 but, after a strong end to the campaign, he has again caught the eye of England's manager, who sent him home along with Phil Foden at the start of the season after a breach of COVID-19 protocol while on national team duty in Iceland.

"In terms of the past it is absolutely the past," Southgate said. "Young people make mistakes, we move on from it, the same with Phil [Foden].

"He's an absolutely outstanding finisher, no question about that."

Luis Suarez has slammed Ronald Koeman for lacking personality and also hit out at former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu after winning LaLiga with Atletico Madrid.

The 34-year-old striker was controversially allowed to leave Barca for domestic rivals Atletico after six successful seasons at Camp Nou.

Suarez responded by firing in 21 goals in 32 league matches for Atleti, including two in their final two matches in priceless wins against Osasuna and Real Valladolid. The latter goal ultimately sealed the title, with his league strikes leading to 22 points in total across the season.

The Uruguay forward has regularly discussed how hurt he was by his Barca departure and looked at it from a fresh angle after showing his emotion when Atleti got over the line to claim league glory.



Suarez told El Partidazo de COPE: "The tears were of happiness. It was because of the situation.

"I will always be grateful to Barcelona and I'm never going to go against Barcelona, they have given me everything and allowed me to get to the elite.

"But obviously the president [Bartomeu] said everything in the press instead of calling me.

"Then the moment they wanted Leo [Messi] to stay they called me to use me to convince him, to talk to [Antoine] Griezmann – so why didn't they call me when they wanted me to leave?

"Or why did the coach not come and tell me that he does not count on me because he wants another type of striker?

"Koeman told me I wasn't in his plans, then he said, 'If we don't figure this out by tomorrow, you're back in my plans and I'm counting on you against Villarreal'.

"I saw then that the man had no personality. He was not strong enough to tell me I was not needed. The decision [to sell] came from the board.

"No one [from Barca's management has] congratulated me, but I nearly sent them a photo!"

Suarez added he would find it "impossible" to leave Atleti ahead of next season, the club having confirmed he will stay for the second year of his contract should he wish to do so.

 

Atleti boss Diego Simeone, meanwhile, has discussed the circumstances around signing Suarez, insisting he was not going to let the opportunity slide.

"I met a man. I expected nothing less," Simone said to ESPN about Suarez.

"I was very happy from the first day I spoke with him, I had already spoken with him when he was at Liverpool, in an effort for him to sign with us but he chose Barcelona.

"And when the possibility [for Atletico to sign him] appeared, the club called me and said, 'What do you think about the possibility of Luis Suarez coming?' and I replied, 'Are you serious?' Don't ask me, let's go for it, let me talk to him'.

"When I spoke to him, the first thing I said to him was, 'Look Luis, we need to win, and you want to win, the door is open.

"There are players who are chosen with the magic wand, like Suarez, he is a winner.

"He came with all the questions about his departure at Barcelona and arrived with a rebellion of a 20-year-old boy, with an enthusiasm, wanting to show that he was a force.

"And when a guy who is used to winning, joins a team that needs to win it can paint [a perfect picture]."

The domestic football season concluded at the weekend in typically dramatic fashion.

The title went down to the wire in France and Spain, while Champions League qualification was up for grabs for some big names in England and Italy.

Much of the focus during the closing rounds in Germany was on Robert Lewandowski's record bid, but there was no shortage of intrigue whichever way you looked.

It was in keeping with the rest of an unpredictable campaign, one that Stats Perform breaks down with the use of Opta data.
 

LILLE, LALIGA AND LUKAKU SHAKE THINGS UP

Lille, Atletico Madrid and Inter all have relatively recent history of league glory, but a pre-season wager would have fetched long odds.

In Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain had won seven of the previous eight titles and would have expected to do so again, having claimed a domestic treble and reached the Champions League final in 2020.

As it was, under new coach Mauricio Pochettino, they had to settle for pushing Lille all the way.

Les Dogues claimed the title but had already set a club points record when they reached 79 with two games to spare. PSG finished on 82, though, meaning Lille desperately needed the final two results to boost their tally.

Despite the presence of Real Madrid and Barcelona in LaLiga, Atletico's triumph was perhaps more likely, even if the impressive nature of it may have come as a surprise.

Although they stuttered on the home stretch and had to come from behind on the last day to edge out Madrid, Atleti spent 30 matchdays at the top of the table – a mark only bettered once in their 10 other title-winning campaigns (36 matchdays in 1995-96).

Indeed, Atleti are used to having to wait to celebrate, with 10 of their 11 championships seeing the destination of the trophy decided on the final day (all except 1976-77).

Inter are another big name but had been waiting even longer than Lille for their most recent title, with one Milan victory and then nine in a row for Juventus since the 2009-10 Nerazzurri treble.

Antonio Conte's men completed the job in style, though, confirmed as champions with four games to play before finishing with 91 points (behind only their 2006-07 haul of 97) and 89 goals (third-most behind the classes of 1949-50 and 1950-51 – 99 and 107 respectively).

Talisman Romelu Lukaku was involved in 35 of them, becoming the first Serie A player to have at least 20 goals and 10 assists in the same season since at least 2004-05.


BAYERN BACK ON TOP, CITY SCALING NEW HEIGHTS

In Germany, the title race was a little less exciting. Winners of everything in 2020, Bayern Munich took home the Bundesliga crown for a ninth successive season.

Prior to this run, no team had won more than three on the bounce, yet there appears no end to Bayern's dominance in sight. They have now won 52 per cent of the championships since the formation of the competition in 1963.

Julian Nagelsmann, arriving from RB Leipzig, will be the coach tasked with achieving 10 in a row and Hansi Flick has set the bar high. His 86 games brought seven trophies.

Manchester City could soon be reflecting on a similarly dominant dynasty having now claimed three titles in four seasons.

Pep Guardiola played a big part in Bayern's run and now has nine league wins in 12 top-flight seasons as a coach, although this was an unprecedented achievement, with City eighth on Christmas Day – the lowest position at that stage for an eventual Premier League champion.

A record English league run of 12 away victories played a pivotal role in City's season, while defending champions Liverpool saw a club-record 68-game unbeaten home run in the Premier League ended as they subsequently lost six consecutive league matches at Anfield for the first time in their history.

City could yet win the Champions League too, where Sergio Aguero is in line for his final appearance before his contract expires. He will hope it is as successful as his last league outing, during which he scored twice against Everton on Sunday to set a new record for the most Premier League goals by a player for one club (184).
 

RECORD-BREAKING LEWY DELAYS NEXT GENERATION

Aguero might have had his say on the final day, once the title was secure, but he largely took a backseat – unlike Lewandowski at Bayern.

His 41 Bundesliga goals broke Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 in a single season. The next-best tally in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21 saw Lionel Messi trailing well behind on 30.

Lewandowski unsurprisingly also led Europe in expected goals, with his chances worth 32.2 xG, and expected goals on target, producing shots with a value of 35.8 xGOT.

As Lewandowski took the Kicker-Torjagerkanone and Messi went away with the Pichichi, Cristiano Ronaldo (29 goals) won the Capocannoniere, having also previously topped the charts in England and Spain.

Kylian Mbappe (27) was the leading marksman in France, while Harry Kane (23) earned the Premier League Golden Boot for a third time.

Kane is set to be the subject of intense transfer speculation throughout the close-season – replacing Aguero at City might be one option if he gets his wish to leave Spurs – and he will join Mbappe and Erling Haaland in that regard.

Haaland also scored 27 league goals and only just trailed Mbappe's seven assists with his six.

The expectation is both players will establish themselves as the world's best in the coming seasons, but it is now Lewandowski, rather than Messi and Ronaldo, they must surpass.

Neymar was touched by the sight of Luis Suarez in tears after helping Atletico Madrid clinch the LaLiga title.

Their Barcelona bond remains, even though both have left Camp Nou, where alongside Lionel Messi they formed the famous 'MSN' strike trio.

On Sunday, Neymar was hoping to help Paris Saint-Germain win the Ligue 1 title, as they looked to overhaul leaders Lille on the final day.

But the Brazilian was also caught up in the drama of Saturday's finale to the Spanish LaLiga season, as Atletico pipped Real Madrid to glory.

Suarez, who made a painful exit from Barcelona last September, scored 21 goals in 32 league games as Atletico broke up the familiar Madrid-Barcelona duopoly.

His goals were worth a total of 22 points to Atleti, more than any other player in LaLiga this season.

The 33-year-old let his emotions flow after scoring the decisive goal in the final-day 2-1 win over Real Valladolid, breaking down at full-time while on a video call to his family.

It was that moment that tugged at the heartstrings of Neymar, who alongside a picture of the weeping striker wrote a message on his Instagram story: "Well done @luissuarez. I'm happy for you brother. You deserve it. You're a star."

England international Kieran Trippier revelled in winning the championship in just his second year in LaLiga.

Trippier wrote on Instagram: "CAMPEONESSSS! Wow, what a feeling! To win @laliga with this incredible group of players is a dream come true. Thank you to everyone who has supported me this year. Vamos!!"

Atletico Madrid are champions of Spain again after holding off heavyweight pair Real Madrid and Barcelona in the closing stages to win their second LaLiga crown in eight seasons.

Atleti beat Real Valladolid 2-1 on Saturday to finish two points above Madrid – the only side that could catch them heading into the final round of games after Barca lost ground.

Diego Simeone's men moved into top spot with a 4-0 win over Cadiz on November 7 and, despite some inconsistency over the past two months, they have stayed there ever since.

With the help of Opta, we took a look at the numbers behind Los Colchoneros' latest triumph.

ATLETI BREAK MADRID-BARCA STRONGHOLD

Atleti have now been crowned champions of Spain 11 times – three of those in the last 43 years – which is third only to perennial winners Real Madrid (34 titles) and Barcelona (26).

Athletic Bilbao are next on the list with eight titles to their name, while Valencia have come out on top on six occasions.

Indeed, Simeone's charges are the only side other than Madrid or Barca to finish at the summit of Spain's top flight in the past 16 years, doing so this season and in 2013-14.

Atletico have now claimed the title in at least one season in eight of the last 10 decades – only in the 1920s and 1980s did they fail to do so.

DESERVED TITLE WINNERS

Atletico have spent 30 matchdays on top of the table, despite only stringing together successive wins on a couple of occasions since the end of January.

They won 26, drew eight and lost four of their 38 matches to end the season with 86 points – their longest winning run being the eight strung together between December 19 and January 31.

It is the 10th time Atleti's fate has gone down to the final day of the season, most dramatically of all in 2014 when drawing away at Barca to hold off their title rivals.

That season, incidentally, Simeone's side spent 11 matchdays alone at the top of the table.

THE CHANGING FACE OF ATELTICO

Another interesting aspect of Atletico's title success is that this is the first season they have averaged more than 50 per cent possession in the league under Simeone.

They have averaged 52.02 per cent possession in LaLiga in 2020-21, which compares to 48.75 per cent in the season they last finished top, and is an increase on the 47.86 per cent they managed last season when finishing 17 points off top spot.

Increased possession has led to a better balance, too, with Atletico scoring 67 goals this season, which is the joint-third most they have mustered in Simeone's nine seasons at the helm, alongside 2014-15 and behind 2013-14 (77) and 2016-17 (70).

The 25 goals they have conceded, meanwhile, is their fourth-best return over that time, their best season in that regard being the 18 goals shipped in 2015-16.

OBLAK, SUAREZ AND LLORENTE KEY TO SUCCESS

As Simeone has himself repeatedly pointed out, this has once again been a collective effort from Atletico.

However, there is no doubt that this latest title triumph would not have been possible if not for certain individuals – none more so than Luis Suarez, who joined from Barcelona at the start of the season for a small fee.

The Uruguay international scored comeback-clinching goals for Atletico in their final two games of the season and won 21 points for his side in total – more than any other player in the division – with his 21 goals.

Indeed, only Radamel Falcao in 2011-12 (24 goals) and Antoine Griezmann in 2014-15 (22) have scored more goals in their first season at the club in the 21st century.

At the opposite end, goalkeeper Jan Oblak made 103 saves from the 125 shots faced in LaLiga this season – an 80 per cent save rate, the best percentage of any keeper in Europe's top five leagues among those to have played at least three times.

Marcos Llorente is another deserving of special recognition, having played a direct part in 23 LaLiga goals – 12 of his own and a further 11 assists – a tally that is bettered by just Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes (30) among midfielders in Europe's top leagues.

His 12 goals came from an expected goals (xG) return of 3.4 – a difference of 8.6 – which is the biggest differential between xG and actual goals of any player in the big five leagues bar Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (41 goals from an xG of 32.3).

 

Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid's latest LaLiga title success feels particularly special in a year complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Atleti beat Real Valladolid 2-1 at Estadio Jose Zorrilla on Saturday to finish two points above Real Madrid, who themselves completed a turnaround by the same scoreline against Villarreal.

It is Atleti's 11th title and their second in nine years under Simeone, on top of winning two Europa Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana.

That sees Simeone overtake Luis Aragones (seven trophies) as the Spanish side's most successful ever coach.

Atleti were top for 30 matchdays and, despite being given a scare by Madrid and Barcelona in the closing weeks, Simeone feels his side are deserving champions in what has been a tough year for everyone off the field.

"It has been a complicated year," Simeone told Movistar+. "It's one of the best years to be champions. I'm happy for a lot of people. 

"Many people have been lost to the virus. For Atletico to be champions is a different feeling.

"The two league titles we have won come with different feelings. The world is experiencing a bad situation and I hope that we have given a lot of people some joy.

"Spending as long as we did on top is huge. I'm grateful, especially to those who played less than others. We stuck to our goals throughout."

Long-serving boss Simeone, who has also guided Atleti to a couple of Champions League finals, hinted earlier this season he may soon seek a new challenge.

The 51-year-old accepts that his training methods can take their toll on players but can see a bright future for Atleti going forward as he hinted at a longer stay.

"I've no doubts that people can get tired, but I'm very hard-headed," he said. "I knew and know that this club can keep growing and I hope it will continue like this.

"The club have done incredible work. Miguel [Angel Gil Marin], Enrique [Cerezo] and all of the unseen people have given us stability beyond results. They've always wanted this.

"They're not here celebrating, but soon we'll all embrace."

Oscar Plano gave relegated Valladolid a shock half-time lead against Atletico, but Angel Correa's stunning solo effort – the Argentine's 20th direct goal involvement for Atleti across all competitions in 2020-21 – equalised before Suarez's winner.

Suarez's 21 top-flight goals have been worth 21 points to Atleti this season, more than any other LaLiga player, and Simeone was quick to praise both of his forwards, who have kept big-money signing Joao Felix out of the side during the run-in.

"I've been saying that Angel has needed a goal for a long time," Simeone said. "It makes me happy that he's been called up by the [Argentina] national team.

"As for Suarez, I said before that his surname speaks for itself!"

We should have known Diego Simeone would do it differently.

The customary celebrations were all there: the cheers, the hugs, the hoisting of the coach high into the air by jubilant, exhausted players.

Yet the most poignant moment of Saturday's post-match scenes at the Jose Zorrilla, where Atletico Madrid became LaLiga champions for the 11th time, was one of quiet reflection. Simeone, wiping his eyes, went to console dejected Real Valladolid players whose relegation was confirmed by that 2-1 defeat. His own emotions running their highest, he was still attuned to theirs.

Simeone has always seemed fuelled by the raw emotive power of a football match, more than any other coach among Europe's elite clubs. When he reels off platitudes in dour pre-game press talks, it's like he's frightened of wasting an ounce of energy; once the whistle sounds, he explodes into a 90-minute sideline supernova, frantic, impassioned, inspirational.

It was like that this season perhaps more than any other. This was his second league title with Atleti and eighth trophy – a record among those to have coached the club – in 10 years overall, but it feels like this one belongs to him most of all. This was the crowning of true Cholismo champions: a triumph built on the power of belief.

Atleti have defied expectations at almost every turn in 2020-21. Even on the final day, when they just needed a win against a team they had beaten 10 times in 11 games, it almost slipped away.

Oscar Plano, a former Real Madrid player, opened the scoring to give his old club hope only for Villarreal to take the lead in the capital, where Madrid knew only a victory would be enough to defend their crown. Angel Correa's dancing feet and inspired toe-poke levelled the scores with just Atleti's second shot on target of the match; nearly 200 kilometres away, Karim Benzema saw an equaliser disallowed by VAR. When Luis Suarez swept home his 21st goal of the season from the best throughball of the contest – an errant hoof by Valladolid substitute Michel – it felt like fate was overplaying her hand.

So it has been throughout nine months of hectic schedules and empty stadia. Exhausted Atleti players missed the succour of roaring fans like the rest, but the difference was their firebrand coach. Simeone demands the utmost, but he gives his players the conviction that they can deliver it, no matter what the outside world expects. It's brutal, unquenchable defiance. It's Cholismo.

Atletico have outperformed expectations so much this season they almost had little right to be champions. They have scored 67 goals from just 53.07 expected goals (xG) in LaLiga and conceded 25 from expected goals against (xGA) of 37.8. Add those differentials together and you get 26.73, the highest such figure in Europe's top-five leagues, and nearly 27 reasons why they should not have finished top.

Suarez, cast out of Barcelona as an expensive has-been, has outscored his xG by 4.85, a bigger number than in his final three seasons at Camp Nou. His 21 goals have delivered as many points, more than any other player in the competition.

Marcos Llorente, a defensive midfielder warming the Madrid bench before his move two years ago, is the first Atletico player to reach double figures for goals and assists in a single season since Diego Forlan in 2008-09. The only other 'double-double' in all of LaLiga this season was achieved by Celta Vigo forward Iago Aspas.

On February 1, Stats Perform AI gave Atleti a 79.9 per cent chance of winning the title thanks to their 10-point lead, yet they managed to allow the race to come down to the final day – and still win it by a whisker after falling behind.

That's what Simeone gives you. In a modern game supposed to be won by controlled variables and tiny percentages, Atleti just reminded us all what a little faith can do.

Luis Suarez will be forever grateful to Atletico Madrid for giving him a chance to lead a title charge following his departure from Barcelona.

Suarez had been a star at Barca since his arrival from Liverpool in 2014, yet his six-year spell at Camp Nou came to an abrupt end when he was deemed surplus to requirements by the club.

Lionel Messi was unhappy with the decision, which has proved even more bizarre given Barca's troubles, with Suarez ultimately proving decisive in the title race.

Atleti clinched their 11th LaLiga crown thanks to his goal on Saturday, which sealed a 2-1 comeback win over Real Valladolid, meaning Real Madrid's late turnaround against Villarreal was irrelevant.

Suarez's 21 top-flight goals have been worth 22 points to Atleti this season – more than any other LaLiga player.

And, in an emotional interview with Movistar, Suarez explained his debt to Atleti.

"The situation I experienced last summer was difficult, the way I was underestimated," the 34-year-old said.

"Barca didn't value me and Atletico opened their doors for me to keep on showing the player I am. I will always be grateful to this club for trusting in me."

Atleti had won four of their previous five LaLiga away games against Valladolid heading into Saturday's showdown, but their opponents – who were relegated as a result of their eventual defeat – went ahead in the 18th minute through Oscar Plano's breakaway goal.

Yet Angel Correa's stunning solo effort – his 20th direct goal involvement for Atleti across all competitions in 2020-21 – restored parity, before Suarez pounced on a Michel error to complete the turnaround.

It marks Simeone's eighth trophy win with Atleti, and his second LaLiga title. He is only the third coach to lead the club to two league crowns, while no other manager has accumulated such a silverware haul with Los Colchoneros.

Another key figure in the title charge has been Marcos Llorente, who finishes the campaign with 13 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

"We're knackered," he added. "It's been a really tight season with a lot of games. It's been tough physically, but in the end we've got this crucial win and we've managed to win the title. The togetherness we have has been crucial to achieving this.

"We felt the nerves a bit today given it was such a key game, but we just wanted to win so as not to have to think about the result of the other game. At the break we managed to calm ourselves down and we went out there and turned the match around."

Atletico Madrid are Spanish champions again, Saturday's tense 2-1 win at Real Valladolid sealing the title seven years on from their only previous championship success under Diego Simeone.

Much like on that occasion, Atletico had to wait until the final day of the season to make absolutely sure of their triumph, something few would have predicted of their campaign not too long ago.

Simeone's men have been top for much of the season, granted, but in recent months their position at the summit became precarious.

It's fair to say they have ridden their luck over the past few weeks, including on Saturday as they had to come from behind at Valladolid, but their supporters will be fine with that after they eventually brought it home.

Following their title-clinching victory, we look back on the other matches that have been crucial in their success.

Atletico Madrid 6-1 Granada, September 27

Okay, maybe it's a little over the top to suggest Atletico's very first game of the season had much bearing on winning the title, but the manner of it was seriously impressive and set the tone for the rest of the campaign – even if they did draw their next two matches.

It was a particularly memorable outing for Luis Suarez, who, cast aside by Barcelona, netted a brace as he became the first player this century to score and assist on his Atletico debut.

Atletico romped to what was their biggest opening-day win under Simeone, and they've hardly looked back.

 

Atletico 1-0 Barcelona, November 21

Barca were in turmoil at times in the first half of the season and that gave Atletico the perfect opportunity to gain a psychological edge. With Suarez missing against his former club, the visitors might have fancied their chances, but Atletico prevailed to claim their first league win over the Blaugrana in more than 10 years.

Yannick Carrasco got the all-important goal as Atletico set a club record of 24 LaLiga games unbeaten, while Barca were left with just 11 points from their first eight league matches, their worst start to a season since 1991-92.

Eibar 1-2 Atletico Madrid, January 21

One aspect of Atletico's trip to Ipurua in January will be recounted time and time again by statisticians, and it's not that they came from behind to win. No, the most fascinating element of this game was that it was Marko Dmitrovic who broke the deadlock from the spot, becoming the first goalkeeper to score in LaLiga since Dani Aranzubia in February 2011. The last stopper to net a penalty was nine years before that.

 

But it was Atletico who had the last laugh. Suarez scored both of their goals, including a last-gasp penalty, to spare Los Colchoneros' blushes.

While a win away to Eibar – who've since been relegated – may not look like much, who's to say that having someone as reliable as Suarez to convert a late penalty under pressure wasn't the decisive moment in their title quest?

Barcelona 0-0 Atletico, May 8

At the halfway point of their season, Atletico were seven points clear at the summit with two games in hand on Real Madrid in second. They had been devastatingly effective in the first half of the season as they collected 50 points, but in the 18 matches since, that haul has plummeted to 33.

Atletico have been far more erratic since the turn and their trip to Camp Nou looked especially uncomfortable, as a defeat would have seen Barca go above them in the table, while any result other than a win will have given Real Madrid the initiative.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen impressed for Barca in the first half, making six saves, though clear-cut chances weren't exactly a regular occurrence, neither side even managing to reach 1.0 xG (expected goals) over the course of the game. Atletico faced a nervous wait to see if their neighbours would capitalise…

 

Real Madrid 2-2 Sevilla, May 9

The second part to a title-race double-header across May 8 and 9, Madrid and Sevilla both still fancied their chances of sealing the crown at this point, and what an occasion it was in Valdebebas.

Madrid looked to be heading to a remarkable defeat when they had a late penalty overturned because Eder Militao was controversially deemed to have handled in his own area at the start of the attack, with Ivan Rakitic converting the spot-kick to put Sevilla in front for the second time.

Toni Kroos saw a long-range shot deflect in off Eden Hazard deep into stoppage time but it was not enough – winning the title was no longer in their own hands.

 

Atletico 2-1 Osasuna, May 16

The title looked to be slipping from Atletico's grasp again last weekend, as Ante Budimir's 75th-minute header put Osasuna in front shortly after Madrid had gone 1-0 up at Athletic Bilbao – at this juncture Los Blancos were top by a point.

Renan Lodi levelled for Atletico with 82 minutes on the clock but that wasn't going to be enough, as they would still sit behind Madrid due to their inferior head-to-head record. They needed another.

 

With two minutes left, Suarez ended something of a mini-drought to clinch victory, his 20th goal of the season, a haul that had secured Atletico 19 points at that point – only Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri could match that at the time.

The goal sparked joyous celebrations on the pitch, Atletico's bench and in the stadium's car park where a group of supporters gathered.

It left them with the two-point advantage over Madrid that was required heading into the final day, with Simeone's men subsequently refusing to throw it all away against Valladolid, despite falling behind once again.

 

Oscar Plano put Valladolid in front in the first half, but Atletico rallied after the interval as Angel Correa netted a brilliant equaliser and Suarez sealed the win 23 minutes from time, Madrid's own turnaround against Villarreal elsewhere ultimately an irrelevence.

Atletico are the champions.

Atletico Madrid have won LaLiga for the 11th time in their history.

Diego Simeone's side beat Real Valladolid 2-1 on Saturday to clinch their first top-flight crown since 2013-14 and just their third in 25 years.

Previous champions Real Madrid, who fought back to beat Villarreal by the same scoreline in their final match of 2020-21, finished second in the table, with Barcelona securing third by beating relegated Eibar and Sevilla – who play on Sunday – set to end the season fourth.

Atleti are the only team to have won Spain's top league other than Madrid or Barca since Valencia claimed their sixth title in 2003-04.

Simeone is just the third coach to win two LaLiga titles for the club, following Ricardo Zamora (1939-40 and 1940-41) and Helenio Herrera (1949-50 and 1950-51).

The result also meant Valladolid were relegated to the second tier.

It is the fifth LaLiga title in the career of striker Luis Suarez, who finished as Atleti's top scorer this season with 21 goals in 32 league games.

The 34-year-old only joined Atleti last year after being deemed surplus to requirements at Barca.

Former Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente was also key to Atleti's title triumph. With 12 goals and 11 assists, he is the first Atletico player since Diego Forlan (32 goals, 10 assists) in 2008-09 to record a 'double-double' of at least 10 goals and assists in the same season.

Llorente has epitomised the way Atleti have performed beyond expectations this season. His 12 goals have come from just 3.41 expected goals (xG), and his 11 assists from 5.38 expected assists (xA). The difference in each of those figures is the highest among LaLiga players in 2020-21.

Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid missed out on the title and had to find comfort in the late comeback that brought a 2-1 home win against Villarreal in LaLiga.

Madrid have ended a season without silverware for the first time since 2009-10, and there are doubts over whether captain Sergio Ramos and particularly coach Zidane will remain at the club.

Needing a win here to stand any chance of overtaking Atletico Madrid, the long-time leaders, Zidane's team were sorely lacking in quality and looked set to end their campaign on a losing note.

LaLiga has worthy champions in Atletico, with Madrid trailing here for much of the game to a goal from 18-year-old Yeremy Pino, before Karim Benzema netted an 87th-minute leveller and Luka Modric fired a stoppage-time winner.

Atletico Madrid have won LaLiga for the 11th time in their history.

Diego Simeone's side beat Real Valladolid 2-1 on Saturday to clinch their first top-flight crown since 2013-14 and just their third in 25 years.

Previous champions Real Madrid, who fought back to beat Villarreal by the same scoreline in their final match of 2020-21, finished second in the table, with Barcelona securing third by beating relegated Eibar and Sevilla – who play on Sunday – set to end the season fourth.

Atleti are the only team to have won Spain's top league other than Madrid or Barca since Valencia claimed their sixth title in 2003-04.

Simeone is just the third coach to win two LaLiga titles for the club, following Ricardo Zamora (1939-40 and 1940-41) and Helenio Herrera (1949-50 and 1950-51).

The result also meant Valladolid were relegated to the second tier.

It is the fifth LaLiga title in the career of striker Luis Suarez, who finished as Atleti's top scorer this season with 21 goals in 32 league games.

The 34-year-old only joined Atleti last year after being deemed surplus to requirements at Barca.

Former Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente was also key to Atleti's title triumph. With 12 goals and 11 assists, he is the first Atletico player since Diego Forlan (32 goals, 10 assists) in 2008-09 to record a 'double-double' of at least 10 goals and assists in the same season.

Llorente has epitomised the way Atleti have performed beyond expectations this season. His 12 goals have come from just 3.41 expected goals (xG), and his 11 assists from 5.38 expected assists (xA). The difference in each of those figures is the highest among LaLiga players in 2020-21.

Atletico Madrid claimed their 11th LaLiga title as Angel Correa and Luis Suarez inspired a 2-1 comeback victory over Real Valladolid on a tense final day of 2020-21.

With second-placed Real Madrid facing Villarreal, Diego Simeone's men needed a win to guarantee the title, but their hopes hung in the balance when Oscar Plana put relegation-battling Valladolid ahead.

But Correa's superb solo effort restored parity, with a glaring miss from Shon Weissman at the other end setting the stage for Suarez to complete the turnaround.

Madrid produced a late turnaround to win 2-1 but finished two points behind their city rivals in the table.

The pressure on Atleti's shoulders was reflected in a frantic start from the league leaders, with Suarez and Saul Niguez snatching at efforts before Valladolid struck.

In the 18th minute, a breakdown in Atleti's attack resulted in Marcos de Sousa feeding Plano who, after just keeping himself ahead of a glut of chasing defenders, slotted coolly beyond Jan Oblak.

Jawad El Yamiq nearly handed Atleti a reprieve with what would have been a calamitous own goal, and with Weissman having squandered a chance to double Valladolid's lead, Suarez went close after the restart, only for Saidy Janko to clear the Uruguayan's goal-bound header.

Yet the pressure finally told in the 57th minute.

It looked like the chance to shoot had gone when Correa took a heavy touch, yet nifty footwork created space between four defenders and the Argentine prodded a brilliant finish low into the right-hand corner.

Valladolid seemed all set to restore their lead just after the hour, only for Weissman to again miss a golden opportunity, heading over a gaping goal after Oblak had parried Lucas Olaza's strike.

Atleti made Valladolid pay, Suarez pouncing on Michel's sloppy pass to race clear and curl home the decisive blow, clinching Simeone's second LaLiga crown and condemning the hosts to the second tier.

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