Diego Simeone's new-look Atletico Madrid are ready to shake things up in La Liga
Aug. 18, 2019
It was 2007 the last time an Englishman won La Liga. Kieran Trippier has already been compared to David Beckham in Spain and now has the chance to repeat Becks' feat 13 years on this season.
Atletico Madrid will not be the favourites for La Liga. Barcelona have impressed all summer and they have done so without Lionel Messi who is yet to play because of injury - despite their shock 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao in their La Liga opener on Friday.
But Diego Simeone's side look set to push Barca all the way and the former Tottenham full back will be an important part of things if they do.
He has already won his first battle nailing down a starting place despite competition from Santiago Arias. The Colombian came back from his holidays later because of the Copa America and Trippier has taken full advantage.
'Lodi and Trippier shine with their constant forward forays' said Diario AS in one appraisal of Atletico's pre-season and Trippier's new club and new coach have been delighted, not just with the attacking options Trippier gives, but also by his fitness, discipline and the way he has fitted into the dressing room.
Lodi refers to the Brazilian Renan Lodi, signed from Athletico Paranaense and already compared to a young Marcelo.
With those two full backs flanking Jose Gimenez and Montenegro defender Stefan Savic, Simeone has his new look back four to begin the post-Godin, Juanfran and Filipe Luis era.
Trippier has already been involved in the moment of Atletico's summer so far. He came with a reputation for being able to deliver the ball from the right like Beckham and he did exactly that with an early, precise, spinning cross onto the boot of wonderkid Joao Felix who volleyed it low past Juventus keeper Wojciech Szczesny in a 2-1 win over the Italian champions.
If Atletico Madrid supporters were not already getting carried away this summer, after thrashing Real Madrid 7-3 in a friendly, then watching their most expensive signing ever out do Juve talisman Cristiano Ronaldo in that victory had them believing there is no way last season's failure to win a trophy will be repeated.
In that thrashing of Real Madrid in July in New Jersey Diego Costa scored four goals and Felix one. Costa will miss the start of the season through injury but there were signs in the summer that if he does stay fit he could be the perfect foil for the 19-year-old Portuguese international.
That scoreline sent shockwaves through Spanish football and left a stunned Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos saying post-match: 'We treated the game like a friendly and they did not.'
Zinedine Zidane uttered the words 'poco a poco' in his final pre-match press conference of the pre-season - in other words 'bit by bit'. But there is no time in this league to not hit the ground running.
Atletico looked ahead of Real Madrid in their preparations back in the 7-3 win and they still look ahead of them.
They also have a midfield: something Real Madrid are struggling to build. Koke, Saul Niguez and Thomas Partey are survivors from last season and former Porto captain Hector Herrera and signing from Real Madrid Marcos Llorente should ensure Atletico get back to suffocating teams in midfield as they did the year they won the league under Simeone.
They have lost players. Antoine Griezmann went to Barcelona at the start of the summer and Rodri moved to Manchester City but the flow of replacements has been constant and might not have finished yet.
If Milan sign Angel Correa then Atletico will sign Rodrigo Moreno from Valencia giving them four very impressive forwards - Felix, Costa, Morata, Rodrigo, for the new campaign.
That deal has been put on hold while Milan pay for Correa. Valencia's director general Mateu Alemany said on Thursday: 'What was an agreement is now not an agreement.'
But Rodrigo, who had cleared out his locker on Wednesday only to then have to go back to training with Valencia on Thursday, still believes he will end up playing for Simeone.
Even if they don't get Rodrigo they will definitely sign one more striker to add to the names of Trippier, Mario Hermoso from Espanyol, Felipe Augusto from Porto and Lodi, Llorente and Herrera.
And they still have Jan Oblak who remains the best keeper in Spain. As La Liga kicked-off this weekend the talk was, as always, of Real Madrid and Barcelona, of Hazard and Griezmann.
But both the so-called big-two sides fear this Atletico Madrid. There is no reason to believe - with an English No 23 - they could win the league this season.