Last season’s La Liga was one of the most exciting in years. It was a genuine three hose race for much of the season which left many fans biting their nails right until the final whistle.
Eventually Atlético Madrid came out on top, finishing three points clear of Real Madrid and Barcelona, and taking the title away from the big two for the first time since 2003-04. Next season, however, promises to be a return to form in La Liga, with Atlético struggling to contain the might of their challengers.
Whils there is no denying from fans who enjoy a punt that Atlético Madrid deserved to win La Liga last season but there is a feeling that Real and Barca underestimated them somewhat; after years of dominance they had grown used to worrying only about each other’s results- Atlético took them by surprise. This will not happen next season and, as champions, every team will be gunning for Diego Simeone’s men, not least their defeated title rivals.
Much of Atlético’s success has been built on the tactical wizardry of Diego Simeone, a man who was able to turn a team with few resources into La Liga Champions and Champions League finalists.
As Betfair fans will know, success brings unwanted attention and Simeone is likely to be linked with a number of big jobs across Europe this summer. Rumours have already circulated that Inter Milan are interested in the Argentinian for the 2015/16 season- they are certain not to be his only suitors and Atlético may be lucky to keep him until then. If Simeone does leave then he could prove impossible to replace.
With success comes demands from existing players for more money. It has been reported that Atlético’s wage bill last season was less than half that of Barcelona and Real Madrid but their players will surely now expect parity with the bigger clubs. Given Atlético’s reported level of debt there is no way that they could possibly afford to meet wage demands and it seems likely that their stars may look to leave in order to maximise their incomes. Their leading striker Diego Costa has, for instance, already been linked with the exit.
One of the backbones of Atlético’s success in recent seasons has been the outstanding Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who has been on loan at the club from Chelsea since 2011. Now, having proved his ability, the young keeper looks set to be recalled by his parent club, this will leave Simeone with a real problem in trying to replace him and there seems little chance that he could afford to buy someone of the 22 year old’s calibre.
Similarly, Atlético’s stars who have proven themselves on the European stage will become more attractive to other clubs and where Simeone may not previously have had to worry about warding off attention from the world’s biggest teams for his players he may now receive offers that he cannot refuse. With such a small squad, if Atlético lose many of their established players to rival clubs (or to injury) then they will simply not having the playing resources to compete with Real Madrid and Barcelona next season.
Whilst many neutrals would love to see Atlético Madrid challenging for the title again next season it is very difficult to see that happening and the smart money is on next season’s La Liga being a two horse race again.