does Stamford Bridge beckon for Atletico stars?
Transfers follow trends; the people who buy players like to adhere to a collective group-think that combines a sort of corporate risk management with an adoration of the emperor’s new clothes.
May 30th, 2014
So, after France won the World Cup in 1998, the hottest new possession was a player with a passport stamped by Les Bleus – the same thing after Spain won the European Championships in 2008.
And, at club level, we saw it after outsiders Porto won the Champions League in 2004.
Now Atletico is the place to buy – and at the front of that checkout queue stands Jose Mourinho.
Credit is due here to Chelsea as a club, in that it has developed a pretty unique relationship with the Spanish champions, nurtured over the last three seasons of Thibaut Courtois’ on-loan tenure.
That, and the debt-laden nature of Atletico’s finances, puts the Blues in pole position to harvest a pretty bumper crop of talent from the Vicente Calderon. Despite success, Atletico remains a selling club – and Chelsea are seemingly the main ones buying.
But with strong interest from Stamford Bridge in goalscorer Diego Costa, left-back Filipe Luis, and even journeyman midfielder (and former blue) Tiago – are Chelsea just following the latest trend?
Yes and no.
The Spanish champions undoubtedly have some incredible talent at their disposal – none of the Galacticos that have once again become a focal point of Real Madrid’s model, but great players nonetheless.
The way that Atletico plays also helps pique Chelsea’s interest here – and this is where Mourinho’s bluff may be called to a certain extent.
He says he came back to Chelsea wanting to play expansive, flowing, attacking football – but that the circumstance of the squad he found meant that he had to revert to his tried and tested defensive, counter-attacking game.
The implicit hint is that he will again, once he has the players he needs, switch back to the champagne style that most commentators suggest Roman Abramovich desires.
If that is truly the case, the question has to be asked why Chelsea are seemingly interested in a clutch of players all used to earning their crust in a defensive counter-attacking side.
Has Mourinho really changed at all?
There is a great irony that The Special One’s parting gift from Abramovich first time around was a Ferrari.
The Italian car is a sort of vehicular form of everything Mourinho likes to avoid in a footballer: flashy, loud, and most likely to be seen at the side of the Autostrade with smoke billowing out from under the bonnet.
Mourinho likes his players to be BMWs: hardworking, efficient, and more than anything, reliable.
And right now, in the middle of a fleet change, he looks to Atletico and their garage full of Bimmers.
Will it work?
Back to risk management. It is a given that a player who gives 80 percent all of the time is a better investment than one who gives 100 percent in five games a season, and remains anonymous the rest of the time.
The crowds may like the latter more than the former, but there is no question where the return on investment lies.
Strikers are funny things – notoriously difficult to predict their success (and no more so than at Chelsea). But, the Costa gamble aside, others in that side look perfectly able to switch La Liga for the Premier League.
And if that doesn’t work, Abramovich can switch to Plan B – and tell the helicopter pilot to return to Madrid for Diego Simeone in a year’s time.