Athletico Madrid may have lost many star names that propelled them to the La Liga title and the Champions League final last season, but manager Diego Simone has barely had any trouble in replacing these star names. The La Liga champions currently sit third in the table, three points behind second place Barcelona; and now seem to be back to their firing best and pushing for a late title charge.
A lot of this comes down to the unity and consistency of many of the players in the team. Perhaps the summer acquisitions of Antoinne Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic, the men brought in to replace Diego Costa in the goal scoring front, have had the largest impact.
Mandzukic was acquired from Bayern Munich in the summer for a fee believed to be in the region of €22 million, while Athletico paid €30 million to Real Sociedad for the services of Antoinne Griezzman. Not bad business by Diego Simone considering how much both of them are scoring these days.
According to many, the pair of them is one of the most underrated strike force in the world. Both have contributed a combined tally of 33 goals in all competitions for Roj Blancos this season, with Mandzukic scoring 19 of them, and Griezmann scoring 14.
In fact, they have played so well that they have managed to push Fernando Torres, Athletico Madrid’s prodigal son who returned to the club in January, out of the starting eleven.
They each notched in a goal when Athletico Madrid humiliated Real Madrid 4-0 two weeks ago and many can argue that they could have quite easily scored more.
It’s one thing for a striker to settle into a new team quickly, but it’s a completely different proposition for forwards to develop such an incredible chemistry and understanding with one another as Mandzukic and Griezmann have in just over half a season.
This weekend the pair of them got their names on the score sheet again as Athletico Madrid ran out 3-0 winners over Almeira. Mandzukic converted an early penalty after Diego Godin was deemed to have been brought down in the opposition penalty area. He then set up two of Griezmann’s goals which gave Athletico a comfortable first half lead.
Griezmann was full of praise for his strike partner after their Saturday night victory. “In truth, it’s easy to get along with him [Mandzukic] because he is a great striker. It’s the same with Fernando Torres and Raul Garcia.” Griezmann was quoted as saying by AS.
“We’re happy with the three points. We continue to show we’re strong at home. We wanted another victory after the loss in Vigo,”
“We have to rest now and think about the Champions League game. We have to be on top form to face Leverkusen,” Griezmann added.
This is definitely not the first time that Athletico Madrid players’ incredible performances have gone unnoticed. The defensive partnership of Godin and Miranda has been formidable for the past eighteen months. Many feel that Diego Godin should have been included in the Fifa Pro World 11 ahead of the likes of David Luiz and Thiago Silva.
Perhaps it’s time that the Athletico players finally get their deserved recognition. Mandzukic and Griezman have proved to be lethal players this season, and should not be taken for granted by the football world. They have the potential to lead Roj Blancos to another Chamions League Final.