Transfer Talk Atletico Madrid to bring Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas back to Spain

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The transfer window for all of Europe’s big five leagues is closed, but that doesn’t stop Transfer Talk from rummaging around about who will be moving where come January.

Atleti ready move for Fabregas

After recently saying he’d like to stay at Chelsea and wished new manager Maurizio Sarri had taken over at the club sooner, Cesc Fabregas could reportedly be moving on from Stamford Bridge.

The Mirror reports that La Liga title contenders Atletico Madrid are ready to make a January move to bring the former Barcelona midfielder back to Spain. 

Fabregas’ contract with Chelsea expires in the summer of 2019 and the Blues could use the winter window to recoup at least some of the approximate €33 million fee they paid to bring him to the club in 2014.

The 31-year-old Fabregas was adamant that he has more to offer one of Europe’s top clubs, and despite his desire to stay at Chelsea, the outlet reports “with Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic ahead of him in the pecking order and Sarri likely to see him as merely a back-up to Jorginho, the Spaniard could move on.”

Atleti join AC Milan on the short list of potential suitors should the Spain international, who has 110 caps and 15 goals for La Roja, leave in search of regular minutes.

Liverpool in pole position for Arsenal’s Ramsey

Liverpool have taken the lead in the race to land Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey once he becomes a free agent next summer, according to The Sun.

The Wales international said he has no plans to leave Arsenal in January, but he now appears set to exit the Emirates during the 2019 summer window after the club withdrew their contract offer last month.

According to the report, a move to AC Milan was seen by bookmakers as the most likely next step, but Jurgen Klopp’s crew have made up ground and are now installed as 9-2 favourites to land the Gunners’ longest-serving player.

United see Ghoulam bid knocked back

Manchester United have seen their €45m offer for left-back Faouzi Ghoulam turned down by Napoli, according to reports in Italy.

The Manchester Evening News quotes Calcio Mercato in saying the coveted Algeria international won’t be on his way to Old Trafford despite the hefty bid with the Serie A side “keen to keep hold of the player.”

No bother, though, as the Evening News adds United have since set their sights on Atletico Madrid’s Lucas Hernandez, with the paper quoting Marca in saying United have made a “dizzying offer” for the France international and are prepared to double the wages he’s currently enjoying in Spain.

Hernandez is reportedly receptive to joining the Red Devils and Jose Mourinho’s men are encouraged by his €70m buyout clause.

Tap-ins

The Sun says Chelsea are ready to make a move for Brescia midfield sensation Sandro Tonali. The Blues had scouts on hand to watch the 18-year-old in his team’s 4-1 Serie B win against Padova last weekend, but the Premier League outfit may need to move quickly as some of the top clubs in Italy like Juventus and Roma are also said to be keen on securing the rising star’s services.

– Paris Saint-Germain want Arsene Wenger to become their general manager after the January transfer window, with sporting director Antero Henrique’s future under threat, sources have told ESPN FC.

– Inter Milan sporting director Piero Ausilio has said Mauro Icardi is set for a new deal at the club. The Argentina forward’s contract runs until 2021 and Ausilio says there is no rush to extend it, although he believes a renewal could be signed any time.



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Transfer Rater Lucas Hernandez to Manchester United Piotr Zielinski to Liverpool

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Things change in the blink of an eye in football. The Football Whispers Index takes the latest transfer rumours and gives them a score out of five; the higher the score, the more realistic and reliable the Whisper.

Here are today’s top five emerging whispers. And keep an eye on Transfer Talk for all the latest gossip.

Lucas Hernandez to Manchester United

The World Cup winning defender says he’s happy at Atletico Madrid, with whom he signed a new six-year contract in June, yet he remains a target of several of Europe’s top clubs, including United. Hernandez’s deal raised his buyout clause to €80m but, as Marca report, that hasn’t put potential suitors United, Manchester City and Real Madrid off. “I hope to stay at Atletico for a long time,” Hernandez told RMC. “But hey, you know that football moves very fast and if an offer came up that was too good to refuse… “

Nicolas Pepe to Bayern Munich

Finding long-term alternatives to ageing wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben form a significant part of Bayern’s transfer strategy and Lille forward Pepe has emerged as a serious target. The Ivory Coast international has reportedly been discussed by the Bayern board after a stunning start to the season in which he has struck six goals with four assists in nine Ligue 1 games. Bild have detailed that the Barcelona target forms part of an eight-man shortlist drawn up by the Bavarian giants ahead of next summer.

Eric Bailly to Tottenham

After Spurs decided against making any new signings in the summer, Mauricio Pochettino is determined to reinforce his squad in the new year and, according to The Express, the Manchester United defender is a priority target. Bailly has made just five appearances this season for United and was subbed off after just 18 minutes in the Red Devils’ clash against Newcastle United last weekend.

Piotr Zielinski to Liverpool

Napoli are locked in contract talks with midfielder Zielinski but their desire to increase his release clause from €65m to €130m has been deemed excessive by the Poland international’s representatives. Calciomercato claim, as a result, Liverpool and Juventus may consider bidding for the 23-year-old who arrived from Empoli in 2016. Zielinski’s stock in Serie A is high while he would also bring some much-needed creativity to the Liverpool midfield.

Nathan Ake to Tottenham

Another reported name on Spurs’ centre-back shortlist is Bournemouth star Ake, who has played a key role in the Cherries’ fine start to the campaign. The Sun claim the 23-year-old is valued at £40m and is considered a potential long-term replacement for Jan Vertonghen. The report also details how Tottenham are planning a summer clear-out with Michael Vorm, Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama likely to leave.



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Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone travels to Argentina to be with sick father

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Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone
Diego Simeone was an Argentina international in his playing days.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone travelled back to Argentina this week to be with his family after his father fell ill and is undergoing treatment.

Simeone, who is missing a UEFA coaches get-together in Madrid, thanked the staff at the hospital in Argentina where his father is being treated.

“I’d like to thank on behalf of my family and myself the Sanatorio de la Trinidad Palermo for the attention and quality with which they always treat us, especially Dr. Roberto Martingano, Dra. Silvina Serra and Dr. Alejandro Palacios,” Simeone tweeted from Buenos Aires.

The Atletico coach is expected to return to Spain next week. The club’s next match is again Villarreal on Oct. 20, having won five of their last six games.



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Juventus stay No 1 ahead of PSG Atletico up Barcelona down Shaka Hislop Power Rankings

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored with a powerful first-time strike to help guide Juventus past Udinese at the Stadio Friuli.
ESPN FC’s Shaka Hislop unveils his latest power rankings, which see Juventus maintaining their top spot while Barcelona gain ground.

The top two remain the same. Below Juve and PSG, though, Atleti have made a move up, while Barca and Man City go in the opposite direction.

Dropping out: Liverpool.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV!



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Ballon d’Or award nominees: Cristiano Ronaldo Harry Kane Eden Hazard on list

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The numbers behind Real Madrid’s current goal drought are more shocking than meets the eye.
Real Madrid head coach Julen Lopetegui prefers to talk about his whole team after their win over Roma.
With a goal for Real Madrid in every competitive game, the FC crew examine what’s led to Gareth Bale’s sublime start to the season.

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo has been named among 30 nominees for the men’s Ballon d’Or trophy awarded by France Football magazine.

The Portugal captain has won the award for the past two years and five times in all, a record he shares with Argentina’s Lionel Messi who is also on the list announced on Monday.

European champions Real Madrid dominate the nominees with eight players, including Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Wales forward Gareth Bale.

Modric won the Golden Ball as the best player at this year’s World Cup in Russia, where Croatia finished runners-up, and last month claimed FIFA’s The Best men’s player award, given to the world’s top player.

Bale scored twice in the Champions League final win over Liverpool.

France World Cup winners Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, one of the Real Madrid contingent, and captain Hugo Lloris have also been nominated.

A panel of journalists select the winner of the Ballon d’Or, which was first established in 1956 and will this year feature a women’s award for the first time, to be decided from a shortlist of 15 players.

The award merged with FIFA’s World Player of the Year prize from 2010-15 to create the FIFA Ballon d’Or, but returned to France Football in 2016 while FIFA established The Best awards.

The magazine also unveiled the 10-man shortlist for the Kopa Award, given to the best under-21 player in the world.

Ronaldo and Messi will be among the panelists deciding the winner.

Kylian Mbappe leads the names after a successful year with PSG and France, while Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold is also nominated.

United States and Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic is on the list, as well as AC Milan duo Patrick Cutrone and Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Lyon’s Houssem Aouar, Groningen’s Ritsu Doan, Red Bull Salzburg’s Amadou Haidara, Roma’s Justin Kluivert, and Santos’ Rodrygo complete the list.

FIFA’s The Best winner Marta, United States’ Megan Rapinoe and Australia’s Sam Kerr are are among the names on the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or shortlist.

UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Pernille Harder and U.S. international Lindsey Horan are both nominated, as well as England duo Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby.

Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg, Amandine Henry, Saki Kumagai, Dzsenifer Marozsan, Amel Majri and Wendy Renard are all nominated.

Canada’s Christine Sinclair and Netherlands’ Lieke Martens also received nominations.

The winners of the prestigious men’s and women’s awards will be announced at a ceremony in Paris on Dec. 3.

2018 Men’s Ballon d’Or nominees:

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City and Argentina)

Alisson (Roma/Liverpool and Brazil)

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid and Wales)

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France)

Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain and Uruguay)

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea/Real Madrid and Belgium)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Juventus and Portugal)

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)

Roberto Firmino (Liverpool and Brazil)

Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid and Uruguay)

Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid and France)

Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Belgium)

Isco (Real Madrid and Spain)

Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur and England)

N’Golo Kante (Chelsea and France)

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham and France)

Mario Mandzukic  (Juventus and Croatia)

Sadio Mane (Liverpool and Senegal)

Marcelo (Real Madrid and Brazil)

Kylian Mbappe (PSG and France)

Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina)

Luka Modric (Real Madrid and Croatia)

Neymar (PSG and Brazil)

Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid and Slovenia)

Paul Pogba (Manchester United and France)

Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona and Croatia)

Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain)

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)

Luis Suarez (Barcelona and Uruguay)

Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid and France)

2018 Kopa Award nominees:

Houssem Aouar (Lyon and France)

Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool and England)

Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan and Italy)

Ritsu Doan (Groningen and Japan)

Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan and Italy)

Amadou Haidara (Red Bull Salzburg and Mali)

Justin Kluivert (Ajax/AS Roma and Netherlands)

Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain and France)

Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund and United States)

Rodrygo (Santos and Brazil)

2018 Women’s Ballon d’Or nominees:

Lucy Bronze (Lyon and England)

Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg and Denmark)

Ada Hegerberg (Lyon and Norway)

Amandine Henry (Lyon and France)

Lindsay Horan (Portland Thorns and United States)

Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars and Australia)

Fran Kirby (Chelsea and England)

Saki Kumagai (Lyon and Japan)

Dzsenifer Marozsan (Lyon and Germany)

Amel Majri (Lyon and France)

Marta (Orlando Pride and Brazil)

Lieke Martens (Barcelona and Netherlands)

Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign and United States)

Wendie Renard (Lyon and France)

Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns and Canada)

Reuters was used in this report.



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Ballon d’Or award nominees: Cristiano Ronaldo Kevin De Bruyne on list

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The numbers behind Real Madrid’s current goal drought are more shocking than meets the eye.
Real Madrid head coach Julen Lopetegui prefers to talk about his whole team after their win over Roma.
With a goal for Real Madrid in every competitive game, the FC crew examine what’s led to Gareth Bale’s sublime start to the season.

Cristiano Ronaldo leads the second set of Men’s Ballon d’Or nominations as France Football release their list of 30 at staggered intervals throughout the day.

The Juventus forward helped Real Madrid to a third successive Champions League title in May, scoring 44 goals in 44 games in all competitions in his final season at the club.

The individual honour, which is European football’s oldest having been awarded every year since 1956, has been won by either Ronaldo or Lionel Messi for the past 10 years — with each winning a record five.

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is also among the nominees after winning the Premier League, Carabao Cup and Community Shield, while also playing a major role in helping Belgium finish third at the World Cup.

Fellow Belgium international Thibaut Courtois is also on the list despite a shaky start to life at Real Madrid, while Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino receives a nomination after their run to the Champions League final.

Uruguay captain Diego Godin completes the second set of nominations after winning the Europa League with Atletico Madrid.

Sergio Aguero was the first nominee on Monday morning after scoring 26 goals in 33 games in 2018 for club and country as Manchester City won three trophies.

He was followed by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, who made a then-world record transfer to the club after helping Roma to the Champions League semifinals.

Then came Gareth Bale, who scored twice in the Champions League final — along with Real Madrid teammate and fellow scorer, Karim Benzema.

Paris Saint-German forward Edinson Cavani — who came 11th in last year’s poll — completed the quintet.

This award runs alongside FIFA’s The Best, which was won by Luka Modric in September.

2018 Ballon d’Or nominees:

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City and Argentina)

Alisson (Roma/Liverpool and Brazil)

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid and Wales)

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France)

Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain and Uruguay)

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea/Real Madrid and Belgium)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Juventus and Portugal)

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)

Roberto Firmino (Liverpool and Brazil)

Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid and Uruguay)

Information from ESPN FC’s Ian Holyman was used in this article.



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Diego Simeone hopes international break doesn’t hurt Atletico Madrid form

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Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone hailed his side’s continual improvement as they pushed to the top of the La Liga standings with a 1-0 victory at home to Real Betis at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday afternoon.

A quiet first half saw Betis dominate possession but neither side manage a shot on target. But Atletico upped the tempo after the break and full-debutant Nikola Kalinic struck a post while Antoine Griezmann, Rodrigo Hernandez and Kalinic all forced saves from visiting keeper Pau Lopez.

A deserved home goal finally came with 15 minutes remaining when Atletico regained possession on the half-way line, and substitute Thomas Partey set up fellow replacement Angel Correa to steer in a low shot from 20 yards.

With his team having recovered from early season stumbles to move towards their best form, the rojiblanco coach told the post-match news conference that he hoped the international break would not stall their momentum.

“The team has been improving, more intensity, more chances, pressing further up the pitch, and the new players have been contributing more,” Simeone said. “Today, we have been able to come through a very difficult game against a team who know what they are doing.

“There were many positive things, and we must continue like this after the international break. We try and play every game as if it was a final, and will keep doing that.”

Simeone played down the impression that his substitutions had been important in the victory, while maintaining that the key to a title challenge was having options on the bench which can change a game.

“The coaches are important, but the players are the most important, and I believe in them,” he said. “If I put on Thomas for Kalinic, it is to win the game, to rob the ball and break forward. Having Correa on the bench gave us the chance for him to change the game.

“When the players respond, it seems like the coaches have done well, but it is the players who have done it. The teams who challenge up the top of the table are strongest due to the players they can bring off the bench.”



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Atletico Madrid vs. Real Betis – Football Match Report – October 7, 2018

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Atletico Madrid defeated Real Betis 1-0 in a tight game on Sunday through a second-half strike from forward Angel Correa as coach Diego Simeone’s substitutions paid off.

Atletico saw little of the ball against Betis but managed to keep the visitors at bay with shrewd defensive work and had far more chances — including one for forward Nikola Kalinic, who hit the woodwork — although they still struggled to find a way through until Simeone shuffled his pack.

Kalinic, who had come in for the injured Diego Costa, made way for Thomas Partey, and Correa was brought on in place of Thomas Lemar.

It was Correa who won the ball and played a one-two off Partey before arrowing into the far bottom corner in the 74th minute.

Atletico have taken 15 points through eight games, having lost only once.

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Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa to miss time with hamstring injury

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Atletico Madrid forward Diego Costa faces at least two weeks out with a hamstring injury sustained during the 3-1 win over Club Brugge in the Champions League on Wednesday.

“Diego Costa, who was substituted in the 69th minute against [Club Brugge], underwent a scan on Friday to find out the extent of the injury,” said a statement from Atletico.

“The report given by the club’s medical service says he has suffered an injury in his left hamstring. His time out will be determined by how the injury evolves.”

Costa has been ruled out of Sunday’s La Liga game against Real Betis and was left out of Luis Enrique’s Spain squad on Thursday for the games against Wales and England.

Atletico did not say when Costa would return but a hamstring problem typically takes two weeks to recover from, meaning he may be fit to face Villarreal in La Liga on Oct. 20.

Costa, who suffered a hamstring injury in the 2014 Champions League final in his first spell at Atletico, asked to come off on Wednesday just after providing the pass from which Antoine Griezmann scored the second goal to restore their lead.

The striker has three goals in 10 games in all competitions this season although he has yet to score in La Liga.

Atletico will look to either Angel Correa or Croatia striker Nikola Kalinic to partner France forward Griezmann up front.



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La Liga Predictor: Barca & Real battling at the top

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Fantasy FC: To Messi or not to Messi?

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Simeone: Griezmann the best player in the world

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Atletico Madrid vs. Club Brugge – Football Match Report – October 3, 2018

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Antoine Griezmann had a goal in each half — including the 8,000th Champions League goal — and Koke also scored in added time to lead Atletico Madrid to a 3-1 win over Club Brugge on Wednesday.

Griezmann opened the scoring in the first half and scored another goal midway through the second after Club Brugge equalised with a long-range shot by Arnaut Danjuma just before half-time.

Atletico was struggling to break through the Brugge defence when Griezmann scored the decisive goal with a shot from inside the area after a pass by Diego Costa, who had to be immediately substituted with an apparent muscle injury.

It was an important victory for Atletico, who faltered against the team considered the weakest in its group last season. It was held to a pair of draws by Qarabag — results that led to the team’s elimination in the group stage.

The victory also extended Atletico’s unbeaten streak in all competitions to six games.

Brugge, back in the Champions League group stage after a one-year absence, were trying to halt a seven-game losing streak in group games in the competition.

It had been difficult for Atletico in the first half against Brugge until Griezmann opened the scoring in the 28th minute. He controlled the ball with his chest after a cross toward the far post and calmly sent a low side-footed shot into the opposite corner, scoring his first Champions League goal of the season.

The second, coming from inside the area in the 67th, was the 8,000th since the competition began in a new format in 1992.

Brugge equalised through Danjuma, whose booming shot from a difficult angle on the left flank went into the far corner past Atletico keeper Jan Oblak. The goal stunned the Madrid crowd and ignited the very loud Brugge fans who made the trip.

It was only the second goal conceded at home by Atletico this season.

Simeone started with three men at the back, but added Filipe Luis as a left-back in the second half to revert to a four-man defense. The move allowed Atletico to press forward more easily and create more scoring chances.

Griezmann nearly scored a third, but had his 20th-minute goal disallowed for offside.

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Diego Godin sudden loss of form is Atletico Madrid biggest headache yet

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Real Madrid’s Julen Lopetegui insists La Liga is not a two horse title race this season after his side played out a goalless draw against fierce rivals Atletico Madrid.

MADRID, Spain — On Saturday night, Diego Simeone extended his unbeaten La Liga record in the Santiago Bernabeu to six years.

His Atletico side took a point from the European champions, stayed in touch at the top of the table and kept a clean sheet: his teams have now conceded a miserly three goals in their last six Liga visits to the Casa Blanca.

Yet the Argentinian left enemy territory with a major headache, one caused by a problem that might be one of the most surprising and troubling he could possibly have encountered.

Spoiler alert: it’s the form of Diego Godin.

The phenomenal Uruguayan is, in his own way, like Leo Messi. If you strive, week in week out, to find the right adjectives for his heroic, inspirational and buccaneering level of leadership without constantly repeating yourself, then very soon your lexicon will be exhausted.

Why there isn’t a statue to the man outside Atleti’s new stadium is completely beyond me. Perhaps the rest of La Liga objected in case the monument picked up a pair of boots, strode into Los Rojiblancos‘ squad and partnered the real-life Godin so that Simeone’s side literally never conceded another goal?

If you take away the matches Godin lost to Madrid either with Villarreal or before Simeone took over at Atleti, then this giant-hearted, ultra-competitive captain would have a winning record against Los Blancos overall. During the reign of Cristiano Ronaldo, three straight Champions League wins, Jose Mourinho’s vast budget for new players, two title wins for Madrid, Godin’s record would read: won 10, drawn nine, lost nine. Sensational.

Godin's form is a serious pain for Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone given his consistent excellent in their defence over so many years.
Godin’s form is a serious pain for Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone given his consistent excellent in their defence over so many years.

His tenure as Simeone’s on-pitch facsimile has been a central building block of the most successful era in Atleti’s entire history. No small boast.

His eight trophies include La Liga, La Copa and two Europa Leagues. It even felt like divine intervention that it was him, the South American behemoth, who headed the goal at the Camp Nou that ended up clinching Los Colchoneros‘ first league title in two decades.

But above all those trophies was the intangible stuff. Fans, players, staff, media… everyone knew that if there was something wrong, if there was a threatening rival, if there was a brutal tackle that was essential, if the odds were against Atleti you could rely, with blind faith, on Diego Godin.

You can’t buy that feeling. You can buy the player who gradually infuses the club with that sensation of security, total commitment and ultra-reliability, but only a very small handful of elite sportsmen have it. When it emerges, it’s because of a special process of osmosis: a fusion of the right guy who possesses the “right” stuff at the right club at the right time. That’s so, so rare.

Who was it received the first phone call from Antoine Griezmann to say ‘I’m staying at Atleti’? Godin.

Who was it that Griezmann thanked for a major influence in shaping his character and attitudes sufficiently to help make him World Champion with France? Godin.

Who was it who lost three teeth in an all-or-nothing clash with Valencia keeper Neto, allowed dental surgeons to re-plant the two “living” teeth with roots, never bothered looking for the missing third one while joking that he hoped someone else had found it and sold it? Godin.

Boy, he’s special. But boy, he’s wildly off form. And this is Simeone’s headache.

Those of us who’ve been following Godin closely would bet huge sums of money that things will self-correct. He’s too young (not 33 until February and with the stated intention to play until he’s 40) for this to be a complete physical decline. He’s too stubborn to let exterior motives distract or debilitate him for long. And he’s too attached to the concept of winning the desperately coveted Champions League in Atleti’s own stadium next June for any club to tempt him away in mid-season.

This, after all, is also the man who turned Manchester City down in 2015 and United last August. Frankly he could, with either move, have quadrupled his salary. “When City wanted me it’s true that I wavered for a while but I weighed up the things which mattered more to me in life and, therefore, I stayed,” he admitted last season.

So, having read all this, it’s not hard for you to understand that my criticism of Godin’s form this season is both a rarity and constructive. But consider the evidence.

Against Valencia on the opening day, Godin completely misjudged Dani Wass’s cross and although Rodrigo had to produce marvels in order to chest it down and score, the error was on Godin. That night WhoScored.com released the stat that this was the first “direct error leading to an opposition goal” that the monumental Godin had committed for six years. Remarkable. But like those mythical London buses, you wait six years for one and then four come along in quick succession.

Against Celta, Godin inexplicably went all Bambi-legged as he’s attacked by Maxi Gomez. After gingerly picking himself up off the pitch, bewildered and embarrassed, his countryman scores with ease. A glaring error directly leading to a goal. Again.

Worst of all, with his team playing in a personality vacuum against Eibar at home and tied at 0-0 — oh, and the Basque club had never won a league game against Atleti in Spain’s capital — Godin wandered out of defence with three minutes left, ball at his feet, and seemed puzzled. “What was I intending to do here?” Godin got startled and gifted the ball straight to Gonzalo Escalante. Roughly 20 seconds and five passes later, Sergi Enrich would score for Eibar as Godin, again, looked feeble within a metre or so of the Atleti’s goal-line. From the unbelievable to the unthinkable.

Godin, right, looks a step off the pace this season but fortunately, his errors didn't give Real a victory in Saturday's Madrid derby.
Godin, right, looks a step off the pace this season but fortunately, his errors didn’t give Real a victory in Saturday’s Madrid derby.

Across the next two league games, the problem seemed to evaporate but against Madrid, Godin tired as the ferocious battle wore on. He made two glaring errors and Madrid began to actually regard him as the weak link in Atleti’s rearguard action. They pressed and harassed him. It was unheard of, predators sensing that the pack’s alpha-male might be vulnerable for the first time.

Godin’s most heinous moment on Saturday was reminiscent of that aberration against Celta. Despite facing no real threat, Godin was occupying a pitch-position that can’t tolerate even a hint of an error.

With nobody between him and Jan Oblak in the Atleti goal, the infantile error he commits with 20 minutes left would have had the “old” Godin roaring in primeval fury. Atleti’s captain passed the ball straight to Marco Asensio and gifted Los Blancos one of their most important goal chances of the entire game. With a ribbon on it.

Karim Benzema reacted to the giveaway and hared upfield in support, unmarked. Spoiler alert again: Jose Gimenez, who produced probably his most complete and most impressive 90 minutes for Atleti, evidently believes that his captain is no longer to be blindly trusted. Embarrassingly for Godin, his teammate almost intuits that his defensive partner is about to gift the ball away and is instantly on the chase; ultimately, Gimenez makes a diving block in the penalty area to prevent the ball finding the wide-open Benzema.

And that’s where this tale ends.

It’s clear that Godin is enduring his worst form since 2012. Gimenez is “on the case” and one would still wager heavily that Atleti’s captain finds a way to sort this apparently psychological gremlin out. For the time being, however, Simeone not being able to fully rely on his towering, inspirational, all-or-nothing captain is one big headache for the Atletico coach.



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Lopetegui: La Liga is not a two horse race

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AFC Bournemouth

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ICYMI: Ronaldo instrumental, Mourinho setback and more

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TSG Hoffenheim

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2

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Juventus

Young Boys

3

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2

3

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Ajax Amsterdam

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1

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Viktoria Plzen

5

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1

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Valencia

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Real Madrid fans chant Cristiano Ronaldo’s name in goalless derby

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Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui heard chants for the departed Cristiano Ronaldo as his team missed chances in a 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Visitors Atletico had the better chances before the break, with Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois denying his former side’s strikers Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa.

The hosts then edged the second half, with young attacker Marco Asensio nearly scoring with a close-range effort that was well saved by Atletico keeper Jan Oblak.

Following Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat at Sevilla, Real have now failed to score in two successive La Liga games for the first time since 2011, with the Bernabeu chanting the name of Ronaldo during the second half.

The Los Blancos’ coach told the postmatch news conference that he felt his team had dominated the game and deserved to win, while lamenting “adversity” which included another muscle injury for galactico Gareth Bale.

“We have not won the game because we have not scored a goal,” Lopetegui said. “But we were far superior to Atletico Madrid, in the end of first half and entire second half.

“Against a great team like Atletico Madrid we pinned them back, created many more chances than they did, overcome the adversity and injuries we have and played a very good game. But if you do not score then, logically, you cannot win.”

Madrid and Barcelona remain joint top of a tight La Liga table, with Atletico in fourth two points back. Lopetegui was asked if he felt his team had missed an opportunity in not taking advantage of Barcelona taking just two points from their last three games.

“We do not look at our rivals results, just at our own situation,” he said. “This is a long, hard league, and each game has maximum difficulty for all the teams. We showed character, personality, pride and that is the path to follow in each game. If you do not show that, then you can have a fright.

“There are many games left to play. Atletico are a great team, have joined the elite with magnificent signings, have a spectacular squad. They are candidates to win everything, so I am happy as we were better than a great team tonight.”

Lopetegui said it was too early yet to say how long Bale would be out for, with Oct. 28’s Clasico at Barcelona already coming into view, while praising the contribution of young midfielder Dani Ceballos off the bench.

“Gareth felt an issue in his abductor in the first half,” Lopetegui said. “It made sense to take him off for precaution. He will have tests tomorrow, we will see what he actually has.

“We coaches have to look for solutions, and I believe fully in my squad. Dani, for example, came on today and did fantastic. He showed the personality and character he has, his physical and technical gifts. I felt he was what the game needed.”

Lopetegui’s lack of options in attack was highlighted when 18-year-old Brazilian starlet Vinicius Jr was thrown on late for his La Liga debut.

“Apart from the first half in Sevilla, we have had good attitude and played well,” the former Spain coach maintained. “The goals will come, I have no doubt about that. We created many chances, if we keep doing that, I have no doubt the goals will come.”

Atletico coach Diego Simeone had a different view of the game when speaking to the press, with the Argentine saying that on balance the draw had been a fair result as each team had dominated one half.

“If I had left at half-time I would have felt quite disappointed, but after the second half you feel it was a fair result,” Simeone said. “We played very well in the first half, and the effort we put in showed later in the game.

Recent slips from Real and Barcelona have allowed Atletico to make up the ground lost when they dropped points in their opening fixtures, with this result extending their unbeaten La Liga run at the Bernabeu to six seasons.

“We do not compare ourselves with Madrid nor Barcelona, but with the best Atletico in history,” Simeone said. “That could be this group, we must keep improving what we are doing. We find it normal to get results at this stadium. It was a pity not to win today.”



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Jan Oblak, Jose Gimenez stifle Real Madrid in goalless Derbi Madrileno

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Jan Oblak made six saves en route to his fourth clean sheet in seven La Liga games this season.
Jan Oblak made six saves en route to his fourth clean sheet in seven La Liga games this season.

Atletico Madrid played out an entertaining — if frustrating — 0-0 Derbi Madrileno draw with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday night.

It was a topsy-turvy game that saw Atleti create a number of first-half chances only to be denied by former keeper Thibaut Courtois at the important moment.

It was Jan Oblak’s turn after the break, with Real dominating the second period, however Los Rojiblancos held firm and kept out everything that the European champions could throw at them and took a point that suits them a lot more than it does Julen Lopetegui’s men.

Positives

Six La Liga games in a row without defeat at the Bernabeu. Who would have thought that when Los Colchoneros went 14 years without a win — home or away — against their neighbours between 1999 and 2013.

Negatives

Neither Antoine Griezmann nor Diego Costa could take very presentable chances and the latter’s lack of goals is starting to become a concern.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — A tough one to grade Diego Simeone on. The starting XI were the better team in the first half, however he looked flummoxed by Lopetegui’s half-time substitutions and it took him a long time to remedy it. Still, after claiming a point and new La Liga record it is hard to be too critical.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Jan Oblak, 9 — Made a couple of smart stops in the first half, however he almost had a Loris Karius moment when he passed the ball straight to the onrushing Marco Asensio but got away with it. Then produced a stunning one-on-one save to deny the Spaniard after the break, amongst other top-drawer saves.

DF Juanfran, 7 — Booked for a hack on Dani Ceballos as Atleti struggled with his introduction but was otherwise solid at the back and a menace going forwards.

DF Jose Gimenez, 9 — Won his battle to be fit and it was a good job he did as he was arguably man of the match. Showed incredible pace to stop a Marco Asensio-led counter-attack.

DF Diego Godin, 7 — Made a huge gaffe that Gimenez bailed him out from. Aside from that he had the better of Karim Benzema and cC.

DF Filipe Luis, 7 — Much like Juanfran he was secure with his defensive work and got forward with gusto. Sent a shot just wide from distance late on.

MF Koke, 6 — Thought he had won a penalty when his cross hit Casemiro’s hand but the referee was not having it. Always combative and fought for every second ball.

Jose Gimenez was immense for Atletico Madrid on Saturday and was man of the match for Joseph Walker.
Jose Gimenez was immense for Atletico Madrid on Saturday and was man of the match for Joseph Walker.

MF Saul Niguez, 8 — Had a couple of efforts from distance that stung the palms of Courtois early on. Grew as the game went on both on and off the ball.

MF Rodrigo, 9 — Very, very impressive. The best midfielder on the pitch, which was no mean feat given he was up against ‘The Best’ winner Luka Modric. Always asked for the ball and kept a cool head when those around him lost theirs a bit. Oddly subbed with five to go.

MF Thomas Lemar 6 — Was lively in the first period when Atleti were on top and looked a threat every time he got on the ball. One of many who suffered after the break and was hooked on the hour.

FW Antoine Griezmann, 6 — Spoke a lot in the build-up but could not let his football do the talking as he spurned a one-one-one he should have buried.

FW Diego Costa, 6 — Denied one-on-one by Courtois in the first half. His goal drought in La Liga now dates back to February and is starting to become worrying. Fought for everything but it was not his day. Looked absolutely shattered when subbed with just over 20 to go.

Substitutes

MF Angel Correa (for Lemar), 6 — Got slapped by Sergio Ramos within seconds of coming on. Always lively and his directness was a welcome introduction.

MF Thomas Partey (for Costa), 7 — Helped Atletico wrestle back some much-needed control in midfield in the final 25.

FW Nikola Kalinic (for Rodrigo), NR — Brought on to run the clock down.



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Real Madrid thriving in post-Cristiano Ronaldo era – Atletico boss Diego Simeone

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Craig Burley feels Antoine Griezmann’s comments are a bit arrogant when he said he’s at the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ateltico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has said Real Madrid are handling life after Cristiano Ronaldo extremely well, adding that he would not read too much into their 3-0 midweek defeat at Sevilla.

Portugal captain Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus in the summer, but new coach Julen Lopetegui has his side second in La Liga, level on points with leaders Barcelona, despite the Sevilla loss.

“Real Madrid are managing the absence of Ronaldo very well and they are competing enormously in every game,” Simeone said ahead of his side’s visit to the Bernabeu on Saturday.

“Derbies are games of emotions and men, men with lots of personality. Those who can play at the emotional limit are the ones who respond naturally to the game — they are the ones who end up resolving the game for their team.”

Atletico have not been beaten in five trips to the Bernabeu, but Simeone said he was only interested in Saturday.

“I don’t want to analyse what happened in the past,” he said. “In football, we live in the present. Tomorrow, we have a new and entirely different game from what we have played before.”

And Simeone added that, despite Real’s difficult night in Sevilla, he was under no illusions about the challenge Atletico would face.

“I don’t put an evaluation on a team based on their last game,” he said. “I value them based on their characteristics and their potential. We are up against one of the best teams in the world.

“I think Real Madrid have shown they are a very vertical side with [Marco] Asensio and [Gareth] Bale, footballers who have a great turn of pace, good movement in attack.

“And with the good vision of [Toni] Kroos, [Luka] Modric and [Sergio] Ramos, they can assist them. It combines well with the possession that [Dani] Ceballos and Isco give them with the rapid transitions of the others mentioned.”



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Diego Costa: Antonio Conte behaviour at Chelsea reason for Atletico Madrid return

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Craig Burley feels Antoine Griezmann’s comments are a bit arrogant when he said he’s at the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Diego Costa has criticised his former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, saying he left Stamford Bridge because of the Italian’s behaviour.

Costa was unveiled as an Atletico Madrid player for the second time in December, three months after it was agreed that he would leave Chelsea in a £57 million transfer.

The Spain international, who had to wait because of a ban on the La Liga side registering new players, had been told by Conte in a text message that he was no longer part of his plans at Chelsea.

“I left Chelsea poorly because of his behaviour,” Costa told Marca. “Diego Simeone is a very direct manager, and when he doesn’t love you, it’s obvious and he helps you out. There, it was the opposite.

“We made him [Conte] champion and then, after everything, he sent me a message saying he didn’t want me.

“People said things, but time puts everything in its place — look where the coach is, look at Conte.

“I was clear that I was going to Atletico even though there were other offers. If not, I would have stayed with my family in Brazil. I have other values that money can’t buy.”

Costa’s first spell at Atletico ended after their 2013-14 La Liga title win, and the Brazil-born striker went on to help Chelsea lift two Premier League titles and a League Cup but said he had jumped at the chance to work with Simeone again.

“I have a lot of love for him,” he said. “Life there [at Chelsea] wasn’t like it is here. Here, I have everything, a big club as well as a big city — the people are very similar to Brazilians.”

Star Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann opted to stay in the summer despite an offer from Barcelona, and Costa said his decision showed the club’s strength.

“I knew from the start that he would stay,” he said. “Obviously, an offer from Barca is important. [Lionel] Messi, the club… it’s normal to be excited by it.

“It’s a sign of the strength of Atletico and he chose with his heart that he wanted to stay.”



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