How to sum up Atlético Madrid players under Diego Simeone? Are they attack dogs or glorious composers in the art of football? Cynical exploiters of the dark arts or enforcers of a rampaging and high-octane press? Devils in discipline or angels in execution?
There is not a team that evokes a more visceral reaction than that of Atlético Madrid. Los Cochoneros have been led by ex-Argentine international Simeone since 2011 and have enjoyed some incredible successes along the way, including two league titles in 2013-14 and 2020-21, a Copa del Rey in 2012-13, and Europa League titles in 2011-12 and 2017-18.
Their current outfit may lack the youthful dynamism of Atlético teams before them, but there are still some exciting talents.
We explore in greater detail below.
Star Players and Key Positions
The key to any successful team is to have a strong spine through the middle – reliable players delivering consistently in the goalkeeping, centre-back, centre-midfield, and striker positions.
It’s hard to argue how they don’t meet these demands when examining Atlético Madrid squad 2023-24.
Alex Witsel: Centre-Back – At 34, Witsel has oodles of experience that goes hand-in-hand with technical superiority. The Belgian international has played with some leading European clubs, including Benfica, Zenit St Petersburg, and Borussia Dortmund. Another calm head at the back makes up for his lack of pace.
Stefan Savić: Centre-Back – Fearsome, aggressive in the tackle, dominant in the air, Savić is every striker’s worst nightmare. When fired up, his will to win supersedes most in the Atlético Madrid squad.
Koke: Centre-Midfield – Captain Fantastic, Koke is a one-club man (he’s been at the club since 2008) who understands the style of football the fans demand. He can thread the ball through the eye of a needle and tackle an opponent into next week. Ferocious, intelligent, and clever, Koke is the first name on the team sheet and one of the most respected players of Atlético Madrid.
Rodrigo de Paul: Centre-Midfield – One of three resident World Cup winners at the club, along with Nahuel Molina and Ángel Correa, de Paul is the midfield enforcer. If the dark arts of football were orchestrated at Atlético Madrid, de Paul is the composer. A master at breaking up play, frustrating the opposition, and eking out time in a winning position, de Paul is a vital cog of their team.
Morata – Centre-Forward: Another player to have been around the block, Morata is just 31 years old at the time of writing and is entering the peak years of his career. He is a proven goalscorer, with more than 200 goals in multiple stints with Real Madrid, Juventus, Chelsea, and now Atlético Madrid. He is the spearhead of this Atlético Madrid team.
Rising Stars and Youth Prospects
The Atlético Madrid academy has a proud record of bringing through world-class talent, including Fernando Torres, Raúl, David de Gea, and current players Koke and Saúl Ñíguez.
There are reasons to be excited about the future, here’s why:
Pablo Barrios: A vibrant 20-year-old attacking midfielder renowned for his impressive technical abilities and creative vision, he is a versatile player, capable of playing multiple positions. Team management refused to let him leave on loan over the summer, hinting at how highly Simeone regards this precocious talent.
Jorge Rajado: After signing his first professional contract in May 2022, fans can expect to see more of this fleet-footed winger, whose greatest strength is cutting in from the left flank and shooting with his right foot. He was the top scorer for the juvenil (ages 16-19) and is on Simeone’s radar having trained with the first team.
Alejandro Iturbe: In the club’s long history of bringing through top-class number ones, Iturbe could be next on the list. Assured, commanding, and ahead of his years in many elements of his play, Iturbe has been earmarked as the heir to Oblak’s throne since he was 16.
Guardians of the Goal – Atlético Madrid’s Goalkeepers
It’s hard to believe Jan Oblak is just 30 years old – it feels like he’s been around forever. Commanding, great with his feet, and an incredible shot-stopper, Oblak is entering his 10th season here, having made more than 300 appearances. His experience could prove vital for a successful campaign.
Antonio Gomis may have only made one substitute appearance for the first team, but management is happy for him to be Oblak’s deputy. He’s been named on the bench in multiple 2023-24 games this season, including the 2-2 draw away at Celtic Park.
Defensive Wall – Atlético Madrid’s Backline
We have touched on two stalwarts of the defensive unit already in Witsel and Savic, but in truth, the entire backline operates at an incredibly high level.
In the 2022/23 season, only Barcelona conceded fewer goals than Atlético Madrid in La Liga, while the club ranked third in the league for the number of players tackled per 90 minutes (17.6), behind only Valencia and Valladolid.
They are a team that loves to defend – Molina, for example, made 39 tackles on dribblers throughout the 2022-23 campaign, the 11th highest in the division, while Uruguayan José María Giménez made 138 clearances, the ninth-highest of any player in the standings.
Midfield Maestros – Controlling the Game
In the 2022-23 season, Atlético Madrid ranked third for the number of touches in the midfield third, with Koke finishing fifth for the number of completed passes. The skipper is a key cog in the Atlético Madrid whee l and can operate with the security of de Paul by his side.
However, Saul Niguez was a vital element of the midfield, too – his man-of-the-match display against bitter rivals Real Madrid in the 2022-23 campaign was indicative of the endeavour and class that Niguez brings to this team.
Strikers and Goal Scorers – Firepower Upfront
We have already highlighted the talents of Morata, but the diminutive Antoine Griezmann is arguably the key piece of the attacking puzzle for this current Atletico Madrid squad.
The French World Cup winner still has what it takes – indeed, he managed 15 goals and 16 assists in 38 games last season, proving his worth to the club he once left for Barcelona. He is one of the key Atletico Madrid players of 2023-2024.
Managerial Strategy and Formations
Simeone’s managerial approach instils a solid team mentality and a disciplined defensive structure.
He emphasises the importance of teamwork and hard work above individual talent, creating a cohesive unit on the field. This is reflected in Atlético’s tactical formations, which are often compact and defensively oriented.
While he’s renowned for setting up in a 4-4-2 formation, he has lately been employing a 3-5-2 shape, which offers him more control in the defensive third.
Atlético Madrid Fan Tokens
Atlético Madrid Fan Tokens, available on Socios.com, have revolutionised how fans interact with their favourite football club. These digital assets offer a unique form of fan engagement and provide exciting opportunities for supporters to have a say in certain club decisions.
Socios.com is a blockchain-based platform that allows fans to purchase and trade Fan Tokens for various top football clubs, including Atlético Madrid. This platform enhances fan interaction by providing exclusive experiences and rewards for token holders. For Atlético Madrid fans, this means having the chance to participate in meet-and-greets with players, attend training sessions, and even have their names displayed on the club’s official jersey.