Antoine Griezmann is hoping to see out the remainder of his career with Atletico Madrid after conceding that his spell with Barcelona did not pan out as he had hoped.

The France international re-joined Atletico in August on an initial loan with an obligation to buy after spending just two years at Camp Nou.

Barcelona spent €120million to sign Griezmann from LaLiga rivals Atleti in 2019, but the 30-year-old never managed to recapture his best form in Catalonia. 

He made 102 appearances for Barca in all competitions – six more than any other player during his time at the club – and was directly involved in 51 goals.

Only Lionel Messi (106), who himself departed for Paris Saint-Germain in the last transfer window, scored and assisted more goals for Barca over that period.

However, it was at Atletico where Griezmann had the most prolific spell of his career when scoring 133 goals in 257 games between 2014 and 2019.

The Real Sociedad academy product has scored eight goals and assisted two more in 19 games since returning to the Wanda Metropolitano – no Atleti player has been involved in more goals.

Back playing where he feels most comfortable, Griezmann sees no reason to move away from the Spanish capital for a second time.

"The truth is that I performed well at Real Sociedad, then I grew athletically and also privately at Atleti, with my wife, with my children... That helps you be more relaxed and enjoy everything," he told Transfermarkt. 

"Then I went to Barcelona. Because of the circumstances, things didn't go as well as I had hoped. That's why I wanted to come back, to play for Cholo [Diego Simeone] and Atleti again. 

"That's what I wanted the most, and the truth is that I'm really enjoying it here and I hope I can continue like this.

"I hope Atleti want me as long as I can keep up with the pace of the games and the demanded level, and that we can write another beautiful story."

 

Griezmann has been linked with an array of European heavyweights in the past, including Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, but he has not considered a move to Germany.

"I've never thought about it, because since my time at Real Sociedad I've always felt comfortable where I was, and in the end, I feel most comfortable and happy here at Atleti now," he said. "I don't want to move again."

This week marks 10 years since Simeone took charge of his first Atletico match and no player has scored more goals under the Argentinian coach.

Indeed, Griezmann's 141 goals is the fourth-most in Atleti history and the forward credits Simeone with getting the most out of him.

Asked which of the coaches he has worked under has impressed him most, Griezmann said: "I would say it's Cholo. I think he's the coach who knows me best. 

"I have an incredible relationship with him, and also on a sporting level he has always fought with the best, in the Spanish league or in Europe. He has taken the club to the highest level possible."

The Copa del Rey round of 16 will feature a repeat last season's final, as Barcelona were drawn against Athletic Bilbao, while a Seville derby is also on the cards.

Barca faced Athletic in April of last year, winning 4-0 in the showdown at La Cartuja in Seville, with Lionel Messi scoring twice as he helped the Blaugrana to their only trophy of a disappointing season, and his last piece of silverware at the club.

That defeat was the second in a Copa del Rey final in the space of two weeks for Athletic, with the club having gone down 1-0 to their Basque rivals Real Sociedad in the delayed 2019-20 final. Holders Barca scraped past Linares Deportivo 2-1 to reach the last 16 this time around.

The other headline tie sees a clash between Seville's two clubs – Real Betis and Sevilla – while Sociedad host Atletico Madrid in another all LaLiga encounter.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, will face a trip to Elche.

It means Los Blancos will face Elche twice in the space of a week, with Madrid hosting the team from the east of Spain at Santiago Bernabeu in a league fixture on January 23. These ties will take place in the week commencing January 17.

Asked on Friday if he believed his side had been given an easier draw compared to Barca and Atleti, Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti replied: "Well no, all the teams want to perform well.

"It will be a tough match we need to prepare it properly as we'll play away against Elche. For me, it's just a draw and we just need to be focused and prepared as the Copa del Rey is an important competition for us obviously."

Copa del Rey last 16 draw in full:

Atletico Baleares v Valencia
Girona v Rayo Vallecano
Sporting Gijon v Cadiz
Elche v Real Madrid
Real Sociedad v Atletico Madrid
Real Betis v Sevilla
Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona
Mallorca v Espanyol

Newcastle United have completed the signing of Kieran Tripper from Atletico Madrid on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The England international is the first arrival at St James' Park following the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover in October, joining for a fee reported to be in the region of £12million plus add-ons.

Tripper returns to the Premier League following a two-and-a-half-year stint with Atletico, having previously played for Tottenham and Burnley in the English top-flight.

The full-back will aim to bolster the Newcastle defence and help them climb out of the relegation zone, with the Magpies only winning one league game all season. They currently sit 19th, two points from safety.

The 31-year-old also links up with Eddie Howe for a second time, the pair having previously crossed paths at Turf Moor in 2012.

"I'm delighted to be joining this fantastic club. I really enjoyed my time in Madrid, but when I became aware of interest from Newcastle United, and having worked with Eddie Howe before, I knew this was where I wanted to be," Trippier told the club's official website.

"I'm aware there is a lot of work ahead of us but I know the demands of Premier League well and I know what an amazing club this is with very talented players. I can't wait to get started and I'm excited to step out at St. James' Park as a Newcastle player."

Trippier made 68 LaLiga appearances for Los Rojiblancos, helping Diego Simeone's side capture the domestic title last season.

The full-back contributed to the success with six assists; Jose Gaya (seven) the only defender to record more in the Spanish top-flight in 2020-21.

Trippier also registered 74 successful crosses during his time in LaLiga, with Jesus Navas (129) and Damian Suarez (84) the only defenders to better that tally.

Although he has failed to record any goals or assists across all competitions this season, there is no doubt in the quality and experience the England defender will bring to the Magpies' ranks.

Indeed, he played five of the Three Lions' seven matches as they reached the Euro 2020 final last year.

Howe said: "I am really pleased to welcome Kieran to Newcastle United. I have long admired his abilities and have followed his career, so when the opportunity arose to secure him, we didn't hesitate.

"A lot of hard work has gone into planning for the January transfer window long before the month began, which is clear in how quickly we have been able to complete this move."

Newcastle have also been linked with a move for another full-back, this time for the left flank, in the form of Everton defender Lucas Digne, who is out of favour with Rafael Benitez following a reported training-ground disagreement.

Digne, however, is reported to prefer a move elsewhere as it stands, with West Ham and Chelsea also said to be interested.

Diego Simeone is keeping his fingers crossed that Antoine Griezmann's injury is not too serious after the striker hobbled off in Thursday's 5-0 Copa del Rey win over Rayo Majadahonda.

The France international – who scored his side's fourth after being introduced as a substitute – sustained a thigh injury in last month's derby defeat to Real Madrid before testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

Simeone did not reveal the nature of Griezmann's injury but said he hopes the France international, who left the pitch visibly upset, is not sidelined for long.

"The doctors will inform better than me," he told a media conference. "He is a very important player for us and it is a shame that he was injured again.

"We hope he does not have much time out."

Simeone fielded a strong starting XI for the game, which was played at the Wanda Metropolitano despite Majadahonda being drawn as the home team, and they never looked like they would suffer an upset after Matheus Cunha's early opener.

Renan Lodi and Luis Suarez made it three before the interval, while Griezmann and fellow substitute Joao Felix rounded off the scoring in the second half.

After scoring against Granada in LaLiga before the mid-season break, Joao Felix has now scored in consecutive away games in all competitions for just the second time ever after doing so against Real Mallorca and Lokomotiv Moscow in October 2019.

Simeone was full of praise for the Portugal international and wants to see more of the same from him in the coming weeks.

"It was an extraordinary performance in the second half," the Atleti boss added.

"He has come out with great enthusiasm and everything he has tried has turned out well for him. I'm very happy for him and I'm sure it will be good for us if he continues at this level."

After four defeats in a row before the mid-season break, Atleti have started 2022 with back-to-back wins.

Simeone has been pleased with his side's attitude since their return to action and he does not want them to let up.

"The side has a lot of desire to do things well," he said. "The players have great intensity from minute one to get out of the moment of difficulty that the team was going through.

"Achieving consistency in the league is the most difficult thing and it is what we are trying to do."

Atleti are next in action on Sunday when they visit Villarreal in LaLiga.

Atletico Madrid cruised into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey thanks to a 5-0 rout of Rayo Majadahonda on Thursday.

Diego Simeone fielded a strong starting XI for the game, which was played at the Wanda Metropolitano despite Majadahonda being drawn as the home team, and they never looked like they would suffer an upset after Matheus Cunha's early opener.

Renan Lodi and Luis Suarez then made it three before the interval as the Colchoneros threatened to run riot.

Substitute Griezmann – who later hobbled off with an injury – added a fourth after a fine move, before Joao Felix wrapped up the scoring with a sumptuous finish. 

Atleti's relentless early pressure told after 17 minutes when Matheus Cunha fired home after Yannick Carrasco had blocked an attempted clearance.

Lodi then opened his account for the season nine minutes later, superbly firing into Alvaro Fernandez's top-left corner from 15 yards after being picked out by Thomas Lemar.

Suarez, who had earlier been denied by Fernandez, added a third four minutes before the interval, the Uruguay international slotting home Marcos Llorente's low cross from 12 yards.

Simeone's men started the second half at a sluggish pace, but they added a fourth in the 67th minute when Griezmann slammed the ball into the roof of Fernandez's roof after combining superbly with fellow substitute Angel Correa. 

Joao Felix added further gloss to the scoreline with 11 minutes remaining, cutting in from the left and whipping the ball into the top corner. 


What does it mean? Griezmann injury mars routine win

Given the strength of Simeone's starting XI it was little surprise to see Atleti blow their less illustrious opponents away with consummate ease.

The only blot on their copybook was the injury to Griezmann, who was visibly upset as he walked down the tunnel.

Suarez endures

Suarez's typically composed finish was his first Copa del Rey goal for Atleti and his 20th overall. Since his arrival in Spain ahead of the 2014-15 season, only Lionel Messi (27) has scored more goals in the competition.

Giralt's game cut short

Majadahonda goalkeeper Gorka Giralt was cruelly denied the chance to test himself against some of Spanish football's biggest names after suffering a hand injury inside the first minute. The 26-year-old cut a despondent figure as he walked off the pitch to be replaced by Fernandez.

What's next?

Fourth-placed Atleti return to LaLiga action on Sunday when they visit Villarreal, who sit four places and four points beneath them.

Diego Simeone is "grateful" for what Kieran Trippier has given to Atletico Madrid as the full-back closes in on a move to Newcastle United.

Trippier is reportedly undergoing a medical with Newcastle on Wednesday after an initial £12million (€14.36m) fee was agreed between the clubs.

The England international joined Atleti from Tottenham in July 2019 and has made 86 appearances for the Spanish side in all competitions.

Across his two and a half seasons in LaLiga, Trippier ranks joint-fourth for assists (10) and fourth for chances created (81) among defenders.

He played a key part in Atletico's title triumph last term and Simeone has wished the 31-year-old well at his next club.

"I always look at the positives," Simeone said at a news conference on Wednesday previewing Atletico's Copa del Rey round-of-32 tie with Rayo Majadahonda.

"I'm absolutely grateful for the time Kieran has been here with us. The club gave him 48 hours to resolve the situation. He's behaved very well and been very important for us."

 

Trippier started Sunday's 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano, though Marcos Llorente has also been regularly used at right-back this campaign.

However, Simeone confirmed Atletico will look to bring in a replacement for Trippier.

"We look ahead to what is next, and seek out alternatives," he said. "The club knows exactly what we need and are after. 

"We are always in common agreement, but if not then we will continue with the players we have."

Dusan Vlahovic looms as a major topic in this January transfer window.

The 21-year-old Serbia international has scored 18 goals this season for Fiorentina.

Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona and Juventus have all been linked with Vlahovic, along with Arsenal and Tottenham.

TOP STORY - GUNNERS LODGE VLAHOVIC BID

Arsenal have lodged a €70million (£58.3m) bid for Fiorentina's Serbian forward Dusan Vlahovic,  according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

As part of the proposed deal, Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira would join La Viola on a permanent deal.

Arsenal, who were seen as a long shot to secure Vlahovic's services, are keen to sign a new forward, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang falling out of favour.

 

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal are willing to listen to offers for outcast forward Aubameyang in January, claims Sky Sports. Aubameyang lost the Gunners' captaincy last month and has been dropped from the side. Newcastle United have been linked with the Gabon international.

- Goal reports that Aston Villa, Everton and Liverpool are all keen on bringing in Philippe Coutinho during the January transfer window as Barcelona shop him around. Coutinho is not keen on a return to Brazil and fancies playing in England again.

- Atletico Madrid full-back Kieran Trippier has agreed personal terms with Newcastle with a medical to complete before a deal is confirmed, reports Fabrizio Romano.

- Real Madrid have thrown in the towel in their pursuit of Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger due to his wage demands, claims Marca.

- Chelsea, Newcastle and West Ham are all circling for Everton's full-back Lucas Digne,  according to Sky Sports. Digne is valued at £30m.

Angel Correa has penned a contract extension with Atletico Madrid, committing his future to the LaLiga club until June 2026.

The versatile forward's previous deal was due to expire in 2024 but he signed fresh terms on a four and a half year deal on Tuesday.

Correa joined Diego Simeone's side from San Lorenzo in 2014 and has since racked up 305 appearances for the reigning LaLiga champions, scoring 53 goals and assisting 49 times.

Only Antoine Griezmann (188) and Koke (140) have been involved in more goals than Correa (102) under Simeone.

Capable of operating across the frontline or in behind, the Argentina international has played an integral role for Simeone and impressed in whichever position he has been utilised in.

The 26-year-old made 42 appearances in the Spanish top flight in 2021, the most by any player in the league last year, while he has netted a series of vital goals for Atletico.

Indeed, he levelled things up on the final matchday of the 2020-21 campaign as he scored against Real Valladolid to tee-up Atleti's title win, and he has carried that goalscoring prowess into the new season.

Correa's most recent match-winning double that downed Rayo Vallecano last Sunday was his third in his last 33 matches in all competitions after not managing a brace in his previous 272 games for Simeone's men.

Simeone will be hoping Correa can maintain his form when Atletico face Villarreal on Sunday as they look to improve on their fourth-place position to chase leaders Real Madrid, who are 14 points ahead having played a game more.

Atletico Madrid confirmed Antoine Griezmann has been granted permission from health authorities to return to training.

Griezmann was among five to test positive for COVID-19 on December 30 along with coach Diego Simeone, Koke, Hector Herrera and Joao Felix.

All of them went into immediate isolation, with only Simeone being able to leave quarantine in time for Sunday's 2-0 LaLiga win over Rayo Vallecano.

But Griezmann has been cleared to return to the training pitch as well after his latest test came back negative, making his a case of "resolved infection".

An Atletico statement read: "Antoine Griezmann has received clearance from LaLiga to return to training.

"The French player represents a case of resolved infection that meets the conditions set by the Strategy for Early Detection, Surveillance and Control of COVID-19 of the Ministry of Health, dated December 19, 2021."

As such, Griezmann could potentially feature against Rayo Majadahonda in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Otherwise, he will hope to be involved away to Villarreal on Sunday.

Angel Correa scored both goals as Atletico Madrid got back to winning ways in LaLiga with a 2-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

The reigning champions ended a four-game losing streak and leapfrogged their opponents, who failed to register a single shot on target at Wanda Metropolitano, into fourth place.

With Diego Simeone on the touchline having received authorisation from LaLiga following a recent positive COVID-19 test, Correa put the hosts ahead in the 28th minute with his first league goal since November 28.

The Argentina international doubled his tally and secured the points when he rounded off a neat move early in the second half.

 

Despite their poor form, Atletico were searching for a sixth successive win over Vallecano – and an eighth in the league on home soil.

The hosts squandered a great opportunity to take the lead in the 23rd minute when Luis Suarez robbed Esteban Saveljich of possession, but sent his attempted chip wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.

But they were not to be denied five minutes later. Mario Hermoso's blocked effort from a Yannick Carrasco cutback ricocheted kindly into the path of Correa, who drilled home through the legs of Luca Zidane.

Correa doubled the advantage within eight minutes of the restart, providing the finishing touch to Renan Lodi's cross from close range after a sweeping move by Atleti.

Thomas Lemar and Carrasco went close to increasing the margin of victory – the latter hitting the post for Simeone's side, who have now kept five clean sheets on the spin in this fixture.

Xavi is urging Ousmane Dembele to "make an effort" after contract negotiations between the Frenchman and Barcelona hit an obstacle.

The 24-year-old has entered the final six months of his contract at the club, meaning he is able to begin talking with other clubs over a free transfer at the end of the season.

Dembele's Barca career has been largely disappointing since joining from Borussia Dortmund for a reported €105million in 2017, with injuries restricting him to just 86 LaLiga appearances from a possible 165.

Yet, ever since Xavi was appointed as Ronald Koeman's replacement in November, the new coach has frequently spoken of his admiration for Dembele, repeatedly backing him to be the best player in the world in his position.

Xavi remains hopeful in light of rumours suggesting Barca and the player's representatives reached something of a stumbling block in talks, though he wants Dembele to play his part as well if he truly wants to stay.

Asked about the apparent "tension" encountered in negotiations, Xavi told reporters: "I am not disappointed. It's a negotiation.

"Agents are difficult. At Barca we have a clear position and it is in progress, it's not over. I'm optimistic and I hope that Ousmane makes an effort. He has a fantastic proposition [but] there is always a tug of war.

"I hope he can stay because he is a player capable of making a difference and could be the best footballer in his position. It's an opportunity for him and he can't miss it.

 

"I don't think he'd be happier elsewhere than he is here. Barca is the best club in the world, the sporting project is going to be more important than economic [aspect], and I have let him know. That is why I am hopeful.

"I naturally told him that we need him. He is an important player for us. He knows that the project is very interesting for him. The economic issue does not concern me."

One player being linked with joining Barca is Alvaro Morata.

Reports suggest Xavi wants to bring the Atletico Madrid-owned striker back to Spain from Juventus.

While it would seemingly be a complicated deal – and that is before you consider Barca's need to offload players before registering new ones due to their salary limit – it is one that seems to make sense on the face of it.

Though Ferran Torres has arrived from Manchester City, Xavi has appeared unconvinced by his options in the striker role, with Luuk de Jong supposedly set to have his loan from Sevilla terminated, though the coach was reluctant to talk about Morata.

He said: "Let's talk about the players we have. Ferran Torres and [Dani] Alves are going to improve our squad.

"They are very good for our style of play. The rest are theories and that's something that does not concern me."

Diego Simeone insisted Kieran Trippier is an important player to Atletico Madrid but suggested the right-back may leave the club amid talk of a move to Newcastle.

Eddie Howe's side head into their first transfer window following the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover in October, with Newcastle reportedly submitting a formal bid to make Trippier the first signing of their new era.

The experienced Trippier has repeatedly been linked with a mid-season switch to Newcastle, having impressed during his stint in the Spanish capital, and has also previously been suggested as a target of Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton.

Trippier, who joined the reigning LaLiga champions from Tottenham in July 2019, has managed 67 top-flight appearances for Atletico, while Howe has previously managed the 31-year-old when the pair crossed paths at Burnley in 2012.

Atletico head coach Simeone addressed the transfer speculation on Saturday as he expressed his admiration for Trippier, though he conceded that managers cannot influence players' decisions to leave.

"Kieran Trippier has to decide whether he is leaving or not," Simeone told reporters on New Year's Day at his news conference.

"We will move on following his decision. We have always had these situations where very good players have the possibility of leaving.

"It will depend on what the player wants. We will then look for solutions. We coaches can't do too much in terms of players' decisions. We can only tell Trippier how important he is for the team."

Trippier has hardly excelled for his current team this campaign, failing to register a goal or an assist in 17 games across all competitions, but his previous displays for Tottenham highlight the quality Newcastle would be acquiring.

He created 49 chances in 27 Premier League games in 2018-19, the third-highest for defenders behind only Lucas Digne (71) and Andy Robertson (51), while playing eight and nine games fewer than the respective full-backs.

His addition would offer Howe an attacking outlet and the former Bournemouth manager will also hope the full-back can firm up Newcastle's defence, which conceded 80 league goals in 2021 – the most shipped by any Premier League team in a calendar year.

Howe's side are currently 19th, having won only once in their opening 19 league matches and collected just 11 points.

Diego Simeone and Antoine Griezmann are among five new positive cases of coronavirus at Atletico Madrid.

Midfielders Koke and Hector Herrera and Portugal star Joao Felix also returned positive results in the club's latest round of testing.

The Spanish champions said all five are asymptomatic and isolating at home.

COVID-19 infections have been recorded at several LaLiga clubs in recent days, with Barcelona having had 10 positive tests this week alone.

On Wednesday, Real Madrid confirmed Thibaut Courtois, Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior had all tested positive for the virus, while Sevilla recorded five positives during the short mid-season break in Spain.

Valencia face Espanyol on Friday before most sides return to action on Sunday, with Atletico taking on high-flying neighbours Rayo Vallecano at the Wanda Metropolitano.

December 23 marks the 10th anniversary of Diego Simeone's appointment as the head coach of Atletico Madrid.

The Argentine's return to his old club altered the modern history of LaLiga, as Atleti firmly established a 'big three' in Spain alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona while making waves in Europe.

While their style of play has not always courted admirers, Simeone's Atletico have won eight trophies – including two LaLiga titles and two Europa Leagues – and twice reached the Champions League final, all on a budget that has never matched that of their two biggest rivals.

In his decade in the capital, Simeone has also worked through a sizeable turnover of players, some of whom have established themselves as modern greats at the club.

Here, Stats Perform attempts to select a best XI from Cholo's time in charge...

Jan Oblak

Replacing Thibaut Courtois was no easy task, but signing Jan Oblak for €16million has proven to be an outstanding piece of business.

An invaluable part of Atletico's imperious rearguard, Oblak set a record for the fewest matches needed to record 100 clean sheets in LaLiga last July (182), helping his side to the league title – one of four trophies in his time at the club.

Oblak has won the Zamora Trophy – given to the keeper with the best goals-against-per-game ratio – in four of the past five seasons.

Juanfran

He might have developed at Real Madrid, but Juanfran became one of Atleti's most dependable and beloved players under Simeone.

A winger as a younger player, Juanfran was a strong attacking outlet as well as being reliable in defence at a time when Atleti's biggest rivals boasted Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at their peak. It was cruel that he should miss a penalty in the Champions League final shoot-out defeat to Madrid in 2016.

Although he won seven trophies before leaving for Sao Paulo in 2019, Juanfran told supporters at his farewell reception: "You singing my name was better than winning titles."

Diego Godin

Signed the year before Simeone's arrival, Godin became the rock on which Atleti's redoubtable defence was built, playing 389 games before departing at the end of 2018-19 – a record for a foreign player at the club.

A winner of eight trophies under Simeone, the Uruguay centre-back was twice included on the Ballon d'Or shortlist as he formed a formidable partnership with Miranda and later compatriot Jose Gimenez. There are some who consider Godin, who became captain, to be the greatest defender ever to play for the club.

There are suggestions he could return to the Wanda Metropolitano should he leave Cagliari in the coming weeks.

Jose Gimenez

Gimenez had to wait for his chance, linking up with Atletico for the title-winning 2013-14 season as an 18-year-old and finding Miranda blocking his path. However, the veteran soon moved on to Inter and was scarcely missed.

Gimenez, who remains at Atleti and is still only 26, had the benefit of playing alongside Godin at international level, quickly forging a strong partnership after his 2013 Uruguay debut. At international level, he may well be the man to pass his colleague's record caps haul.

Simeone's latest stalwart has already continued his fine performances at club level beyond Godin's career, named as one of four captains immediately after the older man's departure. Only hamstring injuries have slowed Gimenez to this point, but he has plenty of time left to add to his legacy.

Filipe Luis

Atletico's outstanding 2013-14 season attracted the attention of some of Europe's biggest clubs – or at least one of them. Chelsea recalled Courtois and returned to sign two more title-winning stars: Filipe Luis and Diego Costa.

Both men eventually returned to Simeone's ranks, but Filipe Luis' Premier League move was particularly underwhelming. Jose Mourinho's Stamford Bridge rebuild found room for one of Europe's outstanding full-backs only as a back-up, with the Brazil international restricted to 939 league minutes – merely the 16th-most in that triumphant Chelsea side.

Atleti were only too happy to welcome Filipe Luis back the following year, installing him again as a regular in Simeone's sturdy defence.

Koke

Koke made his Atletico debut more than two years prior to Simeone's appointment and is still at the club as captain, aged only 29. He may even break Adelardo Rodriguez's club appearance record of 551 before the end of the season, now 30 short.

Under Simeone alone, Koke has turned out on 486 occasions, by far the most of any Atleti player, as he has had a big hand in the coach's various successes.

The midfielder emerged too late to contribute to Spain's international titles between 2008 and 2012 but was instead identified as Xavi's successor by the man himself. "An extraordinary footballer," according to a man who knows a thing or two about such players, Koke has consistently delivered at club level.

Gabi

A Marca column this year identified two potential successors to Simeone, two former players who are "pure Atletico Madrid". Fernando Torres is one; Gabi is the other.

Madrid-born Gabi epitomised Simeone's side with his dogged approach, having been selected as captain by the coach he played alongside in his first spell at the club.

"We weren't the best technically, but we were the best in terms of our belief," Gabi reflected of an Atleti stint that included six major honours – a description that fits both iconic player and team.

Marcos Llorente

Probably the most surprising choice in this XI, Llorente has undoubtedly proven himself an invaluable asset to Simeone since his move across the city in 2019.

Nominally a holding midfielder, the Spain international has been deployed to great effect in a more attacking role, not least in scoring twice at Anfield to knock Liverpool out of the 2019-20 Champions League.

Llorente has also filled in at full-back, that versatility earning him a starting spot on the right-hand side of Luis Enrique's line-up at Euro 2020. There are few players more accomplished at adopting different roles in Simeone's demanding set-up.

Antoine Griezmann

His 'Decision' about staying at Atletico in 2018 – and then promptly signing for Barcelona anyway a year later – upset plenty of Atletico fans, but there is little doubt about Griezmann's contribution to Simeone's success.

Griezmann has scored 140 goals and provided 148 assists for Atletico; since Simeone took charge, the next highest on the list for direct goal involvements is Koke on 137. And Griezmann was not even an Atletico player for the first two and a half years of the Cholo era.

The France international has twice come third in the Ballon d'Or standings while playing for Atleti, in 2016 and then 2018. Had it not been for a costly penalty miss in the Champions League final five years ago, he could well have got his hands on the prize.

Diego Costa

Fiery and formidable, Costa was the archetypal Simeone striker, and a player at the heart of one of the club's greatest modern seasons.

Initially a back-up to Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan, and having battled a knee injury in 2011, Costa became an established player in the side in 2012-13, scoring in the Copa del Rey final win over Real Madrid.

Then, in 2013-14, he scored 27 LaLiga goals as Atleti claimed an incredible title triumph, and a further eight in nine games to propel them to the Champions League final. Simeone's attempt to rush him back from a hamstring injury for that game backfired, though: he lasted eight minutes of the match, which Atleti lost 4-1 after extra time.

Radamel Falcao

Described by Marca in 2012 as "the best signing of the 21st century", Radamel Falcao enjoyed two explosive seasons in Madrid as he cemented his reputation as the world's most feared number nine.

A club-record €40m signing in August 2011, the Colombia striker scored 36 goals in his debut season, including 12 in Atleti's victorious Europa League run – a competition he won the season before with Porto.

He started 2012-13 with consecutive hat-tricks, including against Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup, ending the season with 34 goals in all competitions. He also set up Diego Costa to score as Atleti beat Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

Matthijs de Ligt's future at Juventus is unclear following comments from his agent Mino Raiola.

The Netherlands international has been with the Bianconeri since July 2019 but could be set to move on.

Juventus are off the pace in the Serie A title race this season and Raiola said his client was "ready for a new step".

 

TOP STORY – BARCA CONSIDER DE LIGT MOVE

Barcelona are considering making a move for Juventus defender De Ligt, reports Gerard Romero.

The Blaugrana would need to offload the salaries of Samuel Umtiti and Philippe Coutinho to enable the transfer.

De Ligt has been linked with a switch away from Juventus, with Chelsea also interested.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham and Manchester United will rival Newcastle United in pursuit of Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier, claims 90min. Trippier is keen to return to England after two and a half years in Spain.

- Real Madrid are interested in Lille forward Jonathan David at the end of this season, claims Marca. Arsenal and West Ham are also monitoring the Canadian.

- Gerard Romero is reporting that Bayern Munich are considering a move for Barcelona's USA international full-back Sergino Dest.

- ESPN claims Arsenal are ready to listen to offers for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after he was stripped of the Gunners captaincy last week.

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