Man City See Off Atletico In Fiery Clash To Reach Semi-Finals

Manchester City’s Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson (2L) clears the ball during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Manchester City FC at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on April 13, 2022. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

 

 

Manchester City secured the goalless draw they needed to edge out Atletico Madrid and advance to the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday but the match was marred by a mass brawl late in the game that continued to rage in the tunnel after full-time.

Police were seen in the tunnel at the Wanda Metropolitano as video footage showed heated arguments breaking out between the players, including Atletico’s Stefan Savic and City’s Jack Grealish, with staff trying to keep the players apart.

“I didn’t see it,” said Diego Simeone. “I was on the pitch applauding the fans. By the time I went inside there was nobody there.”

Pep Guardiola was asked about the behaviour of Atletico’s players. “Nothing to say,” he said.

The trouble began on the pitch, as Atletico defender Felipe sparked a huge brawl in the corner after a taking a wild swipe at City’s Phil Foden.

Felipe was sent off but not before a crowd of players, substitutes and staff swarmed in.

“We knew it was not an easy place to come, it is a hostile environment, it was a difficult night all round and how we defended and controlled ourselves over the two legs was incredible,” City defender John Stones told BT Sport.

In the end, Kevin De Bruyne’s first-leg strike last week at the Etihad Stadium proved enough for City to claim a 1-0 victory on aggregate in Madrid, although the Belgian had to go off with an injury which, if significant, would be a hammer blow to their hopes of winning the treble.

Kyle Walker also hobbled off in the second half.

City will now face Real Madrid, with Liverpool up against Villarreal in the other semi-final to complete an all Spanish-English line-up in the last four.

Simeone was widely criticised for Atletico’s negative tactics in the first leg and there was only a minor shift here, with the plan still to keep the game tight ahead of a final push.

Atletico came close, spurning a number of late chances, but instead City advance to the semis for a second consecutive year, in sight again of their first Champions League triumph.

“If we play like we did in the second half we have no chance,” said Guardiola. “We are playing Real Madrid, the kings of this competition. We will have to suffer.”

After a rousing ceremony before kick-off that saw the words “Pride, Passion, Feeling” spelt out across the crowd, Atletico made a stirring start, harrying City high up the pitch and snapping at their heels in midfield.

Foden was clattered by Felipe, Stefan Savic bulldozed Ilkay Gundogan over and Walker poked a ball out of play, under stress from the Atletico press.

But City survived the early, physical onslaught and established control, even if Atletico looked a threat on the break, failing only with their final pass.

 

Players fight during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Manchester City FC at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on April 13, 2022. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

 

– Gundogan hits post –
City’s possession should have told midway through the half when a wonderful Riyad Mahrez pass released Walker, whose cross evaded the sliding Atletico defenders and found Foden at the back post.

He teed up Gundogan for what looked a simple finish but the ball cannoned back off the post. In the scramble, Gundogan’s headed rebound was blocked by Felipe.

Atletico, though, surged again after the restart, the crowd coming with them. Antoine Griezmann dipped a volley just wide of the post, Ederson lashed a nervy punt downfield and Marcos Llorente barged the ball off Joao Cancelo. Guardiola flapped on the sideline, trying to jolt his team back into life.

With 25 minutes left, De Bruyne was replaced by Raheem Sterling and soon after Simeone decided it was time to attack, Angel Correa, Yannick Carrasco and Rodrigo de Paul all coming on.

De Paul’s first touch was to fire just past the post and City were retreating now, camped in their own half, accepting or unable to prevent the Atletico pressure.

 

Manchester City players celebrate at the end of the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Manchester City FC at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on April 13, 2022. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)

 

Simeone rolled the dice, Luis Suarez and Matheus Cunha thrown on for the last eight minutes.

In the 86th minute, Correa chested down for Cunha but his finish was blocked by the left leg of Stones. From the corner, Ederson failed to clear and the goal was gaping but Savic was unable to steer in.

A feisty contest erupted at the end when Foden was taken out again by Felipe, who swung his leg at the City midfielder on his way down. A swarm of players, substitutes and staff rushed in and it was only a few minutes later that Felipe was sent off.

With nine minutes of added time, Gundogan should have settled it for City but Atleti survived. De Paul tested Ederson with a free-kick, the Brazilian then parrying away as Correa had the last shot.

Injured Gimenez To Miss Atletico’s Trip To Man City

Atletico Madrid defender Jose Gimenez will miss the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Manchester City on April 5, 2022 due to injury, the club have confirmed.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

 

Atletico Madrid defender Jose Gimenez will miss the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Manchester City on Tuesday due to injury, the club have confirmed.

Gimenez was forced off in the second half of Atletico’s La Liga victory over Alaves on Saturday and has not travelled with the squad to Manchester.

“Jose Maria Gimenez is not part of the red and white expedition to Manchester,” an Atletico statement read.

“The Uruguayan defender went off in the final minutes of the match against Deportivo Alaves due to some discomfort.”

Gimenez’s absence is a major blow for Atletico, who face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday before the return leg at the Wanda Metropolitano the following week

Atletico Blunt Toothless Man Utd To Make Champions League Quarters

Manchester United's English defender Harry Maguire (C) looks to play a pass during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Manchester United and Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north west England on March 15, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Manchester United’s English defender Harry Maguire (C) looks to play a pass during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Manchester United and Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north west England on March 15, 2022.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid drove the final nail in the coffin of a miserable season for Manchester United as Renan Lodi’s header sent the Spanish champions into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford to progress 2-1 on aggregate.

The Brazilian full-back headed in unmarked at the back post four minutes before half-time to end United’s last chance of silverware this season as their drought without a trophy since 2017 goes on.

United now face an uphill task just to get back into the Champions League next season as an under-performing squad filled with star names sits fifth in the Premier League.

Atletico’s own struggles to break into La Liga’s top four this season have shown up their limitations.

READ ALSO: Middlesbrough Vow To Resist ‘Bizarre’ Chelsea FA Cup Request

But the experience of Diego Simeone’s men in the Champions League knockouts shone through as they comfortably saw the game out to reach the last eight for the sixth time in the last nine seasons.

Cristiano Ronaldo had consistently been the scourge of Atletico in the Champions League, twice landing the ultimate blow in final defeats to Real Madrid and scoring a hat-trick for Juventus to overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit at this stage three years ago.

However, Simeone’s men finally got one over on the 37-year-old as he failed to have any meaningful impact on the tie.

Anthony Elanga came off the bench to salvage a 1-1 draw for United in the Spanish capital three weeks ago and the Swedish teenager was unlucky not to put the hosts ahead in the tie on 13 minutes.

Diogo Dalot’s low cross picked out Elanga and his goalbound effort rebounded off Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak’s head to safety.

Atletico had been penned inside their own half for the opening 15 minutes, but posed a threat every time they managed to string a few passes together on the counter-attack.

Rodrigo De Paul’s long-range effort forced David de Gea into a stunning save at full stretch.

Joao Felix had scored five times in his previous five games, including Atletico’s goal in the first leg, finally starting to deliver on his 120 million euro ($131 million) price tag.

The Portuguese had the ball in the net again at the end of a slick Atletico move that cut through a leaden-footed United defence, but Marcos Llorente was flagged offside from Koke’s pass before he squared for Felix to apply the finishing touch.

United did not learn their lesson as they were again easily opened up down their left for the decisive goal.

The home fans were still screaming for a foul on Elanga in the Atletico half when the visitors fed the ball forward to Felix, whose backheel found Antoine Griezmann and his cross picked out the unmarked Lodi to head home.

Atletico resorted to the tried and tested tactics of Simeone’s reign in the second half as they were happy to sit on their lead and were not unduly troubled by a United side lacking in ideas.

Ralf Rangnick made the brave call to withdraw Bruno Fernandes 23 minutes from time as he emptied his bench in search of an equaliser with Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani among those thrown on.

But set-pieces were the hosts’ only source of danger as Oblak produced a superb save to deny Raphael Varane before getting back off the floor to trap Ronaldo’s acrobatic follow-up effort.

Those proved to be United’s final efforts on target as the visitors held firm, allowing Simeone to sprint down the touchline in celebration at full-time.

 

AFP

‘We’re More Than Capable’: Maguire Demands Man Utd Response After City Demolition

In this file photo, Manchester United’s English defender Harry Maguire reacts after they concede the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on December 27, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Harry Maguire says Manchester United must respond to their chastening loss at Manchester City by going on a relentless winning run if they are to have any chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

After finishing second last term and losing the Europa League final on penalties, the acquisitions of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho, and Cristiano Ronaldo brought renewed hope that United could end their trophy drought.

But the season is turning into a nightmare, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer exiting in November and Sunday’s 4-1 loss at City leaving Ralf Rangnick’s Red Devils 22 points behind the Premier League leaders.

READ ALSO: Man City Humiliate United, Extend Premier League Lead

United have dropped to fifth in the table and while they are just a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal, Mikel Arteta’s men have three games in hand.

Captain Maguire, who said the players were “devastated” following their humiliating loss at the Etihad Stadium, is under no illusions about United’s uphill battle,

“We know it’s an important end to the season that we’ve got and a run of games where we’ve got to know that we’ve got to go on a run, and we’ve got to go and pick up win after win after win,” the centre-back told MUTV.

“We’re more than capable of doing it but we’ve got to show it on the pitch.”

Next weekend’s clash with fellow top-four rivals Spurs is followed by the Champions League last-16 second leg against Atletico Madrid — matches that could see things unravel further for United.

Kevin De Bruyne goals either side of a Jadon Sancho leveller put Pep Guardiola’s side ahead at half-time on Sunday, before the hosts cruised in the second half, with Riyad Mahrez scoring twice.

“It’s a disappointing result for the players, for the club, for the fans, for everyone involved,” said Maguire.

“We come into these games full of emotion, we give everything, we work tirelessly in the preparation, we look forward to the games and we had great belief that we could come here and get a result.”

AFP

Dembele Returns For Barca After Contract Stand-Off

In this file photo Barcelona’s French forward Ousmane Dembele runs on the pitch during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Elche CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. PHOTO: PAU BARRENA / AFP

 

France international Ousmane Dembele has been named on the Barcelona squad for Sunday’s crunch Spanish league match against Atletico Madrid despite his ongoing contract standoff with the Liga side.

Xavi Hernandez has opted to stick with the talented 24-year-old despite reinforcements — Adama Traoré, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Ferran Torres — signed in the winter transfer window as Barcelona face a fight to finish in La Liga’s top four this season.

Xavi had warned Dembele on January 19 that he had to “extend” his contract or “leave” the club.

But the Barcelona coach conceded that he had no choice but to recall the French player who warned he would not “give in to blackmail” after being left out of last month’s Copa del Rey tie against Athletic Bilbao, with the Catalans crashing out to an extra-time defeat.

READ ALSO: Hayatou Wins CAS Appeal Over FIFA One-Year Ban

“Circumstances meant that we had to find a solution with Ousmane,” Xavi told Saturday’s pre-match press conference.

“He is part of the club and the squad. We met and we decided that he is part of the team. We can’t afford to shoot ourselves in the foot. It’s the club’s decision and we’ll use him when we think it’s necessary. He’s a player in the team like any other.”

“A month ago, we decided one thing, but circumstances have changed,” added Xavi.

“We did everything possible to find a solution. I understand the position of the club, the player, and the supporters, who can be a little disgusted.

“But we have to be selfish. He is a player who can help us achieve our goals. We are all in this together. We now think that the best for the team is that he is part of the team normally.”

The winger’s contract expires in the summer when he will be able to leave Barcelona for free.

AFP

UCL: Atletico Madrid To Play Man Utd As PSG Draw Real Madrid

Atletico Madrid Versus Manchester United
File photo of Atletico Madrid’s Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United

 

Manchester United will now face Diego Simeone’s men, Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, while Paris Saint-Germain will lock horns with Real Madrid.

The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League had to be “entirely redone” after an embarrassing technical error left clubs angry, European football’s governing body UEFA said on Monday.

“Following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw for the UEFA Champions League round of 16,” a chastened UEFA announced.

The re-draw took place three hours later, and Liverpool now face Serie A champions Inter Milan, Chelsea drew Ligue 1 winners Lille – having done so in the first draw as well – while Manchester City will take on Sporting Lisbon.

Real Madrid will feel the most unfairly treated by the “technical error” as they were drawn against Portuguese Benfica in the morning but are now set to face a strengthened Messi’s PSG instead.

 

See below the revised last 18 draw

 

Last 16 match-ups in the UEFA Champions League following Monday’s revised draw:

Red Bull Salzburg (AUT) v Bayern Munich (GER)

Sporting Lisbon (POR) v Manchester City (ENG)

Benfica (POR) v Ajax (NED)

Chelsea (ENG) v Lille (FRA)

Atletico Madrid (ESP) v Manchester United (ENG)

Villarreal (ESP) v Juventus (ITA)

Inter Milan (ITA) v Liverpool (ENG)

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid (ESP)

First legs to be played on February 15-16 and February 22-23 and the second legs on March 8-9 and March 15-16

 

 

Atletico Troubles Bring Fresh Scrutiny On Simeone Ahead Of Porto Decider

Diego Simeone, Atletico, Rostav
Diego Simeone

 

“There are two responses,” Diego Simeone said after Atletico Madrid lost to Mallorca on Saturday in La Liga, four days before needing to win away at Porto in the Champions League — “depression or rebellion.”

Only a victory will do in Portugal otherwise Atletico will go out in the group stage for only the second time under Simeone, who has problems domestically as well. After 15 games, Atletico are fourth, 10 points behind Real Madrid.

Simeone has heard it before, the questions about his methods and relevance, and whether he is still a force for good at Atletico Madrid, who only six months ago were celebrating winning the Spanish title in a car park at Real Valladolid.

More broadly, Simeone is rightly revered for transforming an also-ran team in La Liga into an established member of Europe’s aristocracy.

Later this month, it will be exactly a decade since Simeone took over with Atletico 10th in the table and having not finished in the top three for 16 years, except for when they once finished first, in the second division.

In nine complete seasons under Simeone, they have never been out of La Liga’s top three.

They have broken the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly to win La Liga twice and come within a whisker of two Champions League triumphs, denied only by Sergio Ramos in the 93rd minute and Cristiano Ronaldo in a penalty shoot-out.

It remains highly likely the years immediately after Simeone eventually leaves Atletico will be worse than those that went before.

When Simeone called on Saturday for “rebellion” against Porto, it was a familiar reflex for a coach who in a crisis looks to the psychological elements, demanding more work, concentration, focus, fight and togetherness.

It is why the failures this season have been particularly jarring for an Atletico team so renowned for their discipline and defence.

Atletico suddenly look like a side with a soft-centre, vulnerable at set-pieces and fragile in key moments.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to find solutions for things that happen repeatedly,” Simeone said after Mallorca scored twice in the last 10 minutes to win 2-1.

“With two shots on goal they scored two goals and that can’t happen.”

– Decline –

One factor is personnel, a signing not adequately replacing a sale and when that happens repeatedly, the quality can be quickly reduced. Felipe and Mario Hermoso are among those to have struggled defensively this season.

There has been a shift in emphasis as well, a renewed focus on the attack, where Atletico now boast one of the most exiting rosters in Europe.

Antoine Griezmann’s return on loan last summer was an opportunity too good to turn down but finding a way to suit any combination of Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Angel Correa is a problem still being resolved.

Despite the protestations of Jurgen Klopp and others, Atletico are no longer the Atletico of old.

Even if defence remains the priority, they are better to watch, attack more freely and score more goals but as a result, they are also leakier at the back and easier to beat.

Yet the bigger issue is whether the increasing regularity of Atletico’s dips suggest Simeone’s time at the apex of European coaching has now passed.

It is credit to him that he has outlasted other prominent defence-first coaches like Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez but the most coveted tacticians are now proponents of a different style, of front-foot football based on pressing and possession.

Atletico’s decline in the Champions League is clear. Since reaching the final in 2016, their yearly stage of exit reads semi-final, group stage, last 16, quarter-final, last 16.

In the last three years, they have been outplayed by Klopp’s Lverpool, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund under Lucien Favre.

Even domestically, this current slump is not a one-off. They were treading water for most of the second half of last season, winning only six games out of 16 between February and April.

They got over the line with four wins out of five in May, two of them with late goals.

It was another example of Atletico’s enduring grit in the face of adversity and Simeone’s mastery at generating solidarity and resilience.

Atletico will believe that same sense of “rebellion” can turn the tide against Porto, another revival still in their grasp. The deeper decline could be harder to reverse.

UCL: Salah Delivers Again As Liverpool Beat 10-Man Atletico

Liverpool's Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the UEFA Champions League Group B football match between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on October 19, 2021. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal during the UEFA Champions League Group B football match between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on October 19, 2021. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Mohamed Salah continued his blistering run of form on Tuesday by scoring twice in a 3-2 victory over 10-man Atletico Madrid as Liverpool took charge of Group B in the Champions League.

Salah gave Liverpool the lead with another splendid goal at the Wanda Metropolitano after dancing past three Atletico defenders and firing in to make it nine consecutive games the Egyptian has scored in.

But a wild contest in Madrid had several twists and turns still to come as Naby Keita doubled the advantage only for Atletico to strike twice before half-time, Antoine Griezmann pulling his team back into the match and leaving Liverpool looking temporarily dishevelled.

Yet Griezmann was sent off in the 52nd minute for a high foot into the face of Roberto Firmino and Liverpool made Atleti pay, a clumsy challenge by Mario Hermoso on Diogo Jota giving Salah the chance to win the game from the spot.

READ ALSO: Klopp Not A Fan Of Atletico Style Despite Respect For Simeone

Even with 10 men, Atletico thought they might have snatched a draw late on as Luis Suarez, on off the bench, prepared to take a penalty against his former club with his first touch.

Instead, referee Daniel Siebert infuriated the home crowd by cancelling his decision after consulting the replay.

Liverpool move five points clear at the top of the group, with Atletico seemingly left to scrap it out with Porto for second place. They have four points each.

Between his two goals, Salah was often on the fringes of a game that was high on adrenaline but low on craft and creativity.

Yet the 29-year-old proved the difference again, adding his 11th and 12 goals of the season and showing why many now have him as favourite for the Ballon d’Or.

Diego Simeone’s plan seemed to be to have Thomas Lemar doubling up with Yannick Carrasco when Salah moved into threatening positions but in the eighth minute, Salah just nipped past both of them.

He collected the ball far out on the right towards the corner flag, danced inside Carrasco, Lemar and then finally Koke before unleashing from the edge of the box, his shot deflecting off James Milner.

Atleti had barely paused for breath when Liverpool made it two, this time Felipe with some uncharacteristically limp defending, his wild clearance plopping up to Keita, who whacked it first time on the volley into the net.

Liverpool were faster, stronger and cutting through Atletico almost at will but little by little the home side resisted and found their way back.

A chipped pass from the impressive Joao Felix had to be poked out of Carrasco’s reach at the back post and from the resulting corner, Atleti pulled one back.

Lemar wriggled round the back of Keita and his cross bypassed everyone in the area before landing with Koke, who did well to shoot low into the crowd, where Griezmann diverted in.

The wait for a VAR check gave Simeone a second chance to thrash his arms towards the home crowd, with Atletico believing again.

Felix scuttled clear but Alisson blocked the finish and then Felix surged past Keita on the left touchline.

Prodding inside to Griezmann, the gap was not obvious, but Virgil van Dijk had his angles wrong and the Frenchman’s first touch was decisive, piercing him through Liverpool’s defence and offering space for a cool finish.

Lemar and Carrasco both went close either side of half-time and Atletico appeared to have the initiative, Liverpool’s early authority lost.

But Griezmann’s red card changed the complexion again, the striker sent off after lifting his foot high enough to connect with the side of Firmino’s head, even if his eyes were fixed firmly on the ball.

The dismissal spoiled the flow as Atletico, and Simeone, looked for every chance either to squeeze a Liverpool red card from Siebert or waste time.

They looked like they might hold on for a point until Hermoso blinked in the 76th minute, his clumsy challenge on Jota under a high ball in the area prompting Siebert to point to the spot.

Jan Oblak jumped right, Salah rolled left.

AFP

Klopp Not A Fan Of Atletico Style Despite Respect For Simeone

File Photo: Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp. LEE SMITH / POOL / AFP

 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he still finds it hard to warm to Atletico Madrid’s style of play despite his deep admiration for the Spanish champions’ coach Diego Simeone.

Klopp hit out at Atletico’s defensive tactics when Simeone’s men won 3-2 after extra-time at Anfield in the Champions League last-16 in March 2020 to progress 4-2 on aggregate.

The German excused that outburst on Monday, saying it showed his frustration at being forced to play the game with a full crowd just days before the coronavirus pandemic shut down European football for months.

“I was angry, disappointed about a lot of things with the world in the moment,” said Klopp. “Then we had to concentrate on football in a really strange circumstance.

“Diego Simeone is doing everything right. He is the current Spanish champion. He is at Atletico for I don’t know how long, but very successful there.”

Klopp said he respected what Atletico had achieved but preferred a different style of football.

“Do I like it? Not too much but that’s normal because I prefer a different type of football,” he said. “Other coaches prefer other styles of football so nobody has to like it — it just has to be successful and that is what Atletico are for sure.”

Liverpool are unbeaten in 11 games this season, thanks in large part to Virgil van Dijk’s return from knee ligament damage.

The Dutch captain was injured last October by a wild lunge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in a bad-tempered Merseyside derby.

Van Dijk resisted the temptation to rush back to represent his country at Euro 2020 and Liverpool have reaped the benefits as he has slotted back at the heart of the defence.

Simeone said the Dutchman’s return has given the Reds the “security” they lacked last season to attack more freely.

But Van Dijk himself believes he still has some way to go to get back to his best.

“I don’t think there are a lot of examples of players coming back from an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), a complex knee injury, that’s back to his best after a year, so I’ve work to do,” said Van Dijk.

“I want to be as good as I can be for the team I play for, the fans I play for and the country I play for. The only thing to get there is play games and get more confident in the things you do.

“It’s going the right way and I’m feeling fine so there is always room for improvement.”

Liverpool are on course for the Champions League last 16 after winning their opening two games ahead of the trip to Madrid.

Atletico needed a late turnaround to beat 10-man AC Milan in their last European outing, but are also well-placed on four points from two games in Group B.

 

Atletico Madrid Welcome Back Griezmann As Real Sign Camavinga

File: Photo by BERNADETT SZABO / POOL / AFP)

 

France forward Antoine Griezmann has made a shock return to Atletico Madrid just two years after leaving to join Barcelona, on the final day of a hectic European transfer window.

Real Madrid also bagged a French international star as Eduardo Camavinga arrived from Rennes — but their attempts to sign Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain failed.

World Cup-winning 30-year-old Griezmann, who scored 133 goals in his first spell with Atletico, has rejoined on a one-year loan deal with an option to extend by another year and an obligation to buy, the club said.

“Welcome back, Griezmann!” Atletico wrote on its website.

Barcelona have been struggling financially and had to allow six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi to leave for PSG last month.

Midfield prodigy Camavinga, who is just 18, penned a six-year deal at Real, the club reportedly paying a fee of 31 million euros ($36.6m) plus nine million euros more in bonuses.

It is a considerable sum for the Angolan-born player, who was in the final year of his contract at Rennes.

Real had spent the last week trying to clinch a dizzying deal for 22-year-old forward Mbappe, making two bids, the last understood to be worth a total of 180 million euros.

But PSG’s Qatari owners do not need to sell and appear prepared to risk losing Mbappe for free at the end of the campaign in order to have the World Cup winner, Neymar and Messi together in attack for at least one season.

Real can come back in for Mbappe again in January, when they could sign him to a pre-contract agreement to move next summer without having to pay a transfer fee.

It has been an extraordinary summer transfer window in Europe, with Messi departing Barcelona for Paris and Cristiano Ronaldo on Tuesday finalising his sensational return to Manchester United from Juventus.

Apart from Messi, PSG have also signed Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid and one of the world’s top goalkeepers, Gianluigi Donnarumma, from AC Milan.

They also strengthened their midfield with Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool and signed flying Morocco right-back Achraf Hakimi, who shone for Inter Milan last season.

The latter cost some 60 million euros, with the rest all arriving as free agents.

On Tuesday, the club also announced the signing of teenage Portugal defender Nuno Mendes from Sporting Lisbon, on a season-long loan with an option to buy.

Ronaldo is the latest big-money signing in the Premier League, where the biggest deals have seen Manchester City buy Jack Grealish from Aston Villa for £100 million ($138m) and Romelu Lukaku return to Chelsea from Inter for £97.5 million.

– Belts tightened –

In contrast, PSG apart, leading clubs on the continent have not been as willing to spend big money as they continue to suffer from the economic impact of the pandemic.

Before adding Camavinga, Real’s only signing of note was David Alaba on a free from Bayern Munich.

Barcelona, mired in huge debts, could not keep Messi and spent deadline day selling off some of their talented youngsters.

Brazilian right-back Emerson Royal joined Tottenham Hotspur for 25 million euros after two seasons on loan with Real Betis, while teenager Ilaix Moriba headed to RB Leipzig for an initial 16 million euros.

Their only new permanent signings have been free agents, Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero from Manchester City and Memphis Depay from Lyon.

They also announced a deadline-day deal to take Sevilla forward Luuk de Jong on loan.

In the Premier League, Chelsea secured the signing of Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez on a season-long loan, while Leeds signed Wales winger Dan James from Manchester United in a deal worth a reported £25 million ($34.3 million).

Early strugglers Arsenal signed Japan defender Takehiro Tomiyasu from Bologna for a fee worth a reported £19.8 million, and offloaded defender Hector Bellerin to Real Betis on a season-long loan.

In Italy, champions Inter replaced Lukaku and Hakimi with cheaper alternatives in Edin Dzeko and Netherlands right-back Denzel Dumfries.

They also signed Argentina’s Joaquin Correa from Lazio on an initial one-year loan.

Juventus offloaded Ronaldo and signed two Italy internationals in striker Moise Kean and midfielder Manuel Locatelli.

Both arrived on loans that will become permanent after two years, a way for Juve to spread out the payments to Everton and Sassuolo respectively.

In Germany, Bayern Munich splashed a total of 67.5 million euros signing France defender Dayot Upamecano and Austria’s Marcel Sabitzer from RB Leipzig.

Borussia Dortmund bought Dutch forward Donyell Malen from PSV Eindhoven and, crucially, have kept hold of Erling Haaland.

AFP

Five Matches That Won Atletico Madrid La Liga

Atletico Madrid´s players toss Atletico Madrid's Argentine coach Diego Simeone after winning the Spanish league football match against Real Valladolid FC and the Liga Championship title at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Atletico Madrid´s players toss Atletico Madrid’s Argentine coach Diego Simeone after winning the Spanish league football match against Real Valladolid FC and the Liga Championship title at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid won La Liga for the second time in eight years on Sunday as a 2-1 victory over Real Valladolid crowned them Spanish champions. 

Here, AFP looks at five matches that secured Atletico the title.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Barcelona, November 21

Yannick Carrasco scored the winner as Atletico registered their first La Liga win over Barcelona in more than a decade and stretched their unbeaten run to 24 matches.

It would be this result that eventually gave Atletico a better head-to-head record over Barca, who were left 10th in the table and without the injured Gerard Pique for three months.

Elche 0-1 Atletico Madrid, May 1

Atletico were inches away from surrendering victory and their lead at the top of the table to Real Madrid as Elche’s Fidel Chaves missed a dramatic 91st-minute penalty.

Fidel’s shot struck the post as Atletico held on for a 1-0 win that kept them two points ahead of Real Madrid and also in front of Barcelona going into a crunch meeting at Camp Nou.

Barcelona 0-0 Atletico Madrid, May 8

Barcelona had the chance to shift the dynamic of the title race on their home turf but Atletico dominated the first half and Barca never did quite enough in the second.

The stalemate ended up being an even better result for Atletico after Real Madrid were held by Sevilla a day later, Atleti’s two-point lead preserved at the end of what many had circled as a pivotal weekend.

Atletico Madrid 2-1 Osasuna, May 16

With nine minutes left, Atletico trailed Osasuna 1-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano and Real Madrid were going top of La Liga, the title in their hands, with a win against Athletic Bilbao.

But Atletico pulled off an incredible turnaround, Renan Lodi equalising in the 82nd minute and Suarez scoring the winner in the 88th, with hundreds of fans celebrating outside in the stadium car park.

Victory kept Atleti top and left them one more win away.

Real Valladolid 1-2 Atletico Madrid, May 22

Atletico knew victory would win them the title regardless of how Real Madrid fared against Villarreal but they did it the hard way, coming from behind after Valladolid took a shock lead through Oscar Plano.

But Angel Correa equalised and then Suarez scored the winner, a nervy title race decided by a nail-biting victory.

Suarez Scores As Atletico Madrid Win La Liga

Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Valladolid FC against Club Atletico de Madrid at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Atletico Madrid’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Valladolid FC against Club Atletico de Madrid at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid won La Liga and Luis Suarez found vindication, his goal securing the 2-1 victory over Real Valladolid on Saturday that clinched his team another remarkable Spanish title. 

Suarez began the season crying after being forced out of Barcelona but ended it with his 21st goal of the season earning Atletico a first league triumph since 2014, this one at the expense of Real Madrid.

Atletico knew victory would guarantee them the title regardless of what Real Madrid did at home to Villarreal but it was never comfortable, with Valladolid taking a shock early lead.

Real Madrid were behind too for most of the afternoon but Karim Benzema equalised in the 87th minute and Luka Modric even scored a late winner for 2-1 at Valdebebas, leaving Atletico hanging on at the end, as they were suddenly one goal away from squandering it all.

When the final whistle blew, the players ran onto the pitch, Suarez underneath a pile of red and white shirts, with Europe’s most nerve-wracking and unpredictable title race finally complete.

Just over a week ago, coach Diego Simeone said this was the “Suarez Zone” and so it proved, the Uruguayan scoring the winner against Osasuna last week to keep the title in Atletico’s hands and then again on the last day to put their name on the trophy.

This is only the second time in 17 years that a team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid have won the title, with Atleti claiming the other one under Simeone in 2014.

Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (C) celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Valladolid FC against Club Atletico de Madrid at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Atletico Madrid’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (C) celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Valladolid FC against Club Atletico de Madrid at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

Atletico went into the game having been top since December and on the back of beating Osasuna with two goals in the last eight minutes, a victory that was so dramatic it felt like it would prove decisive.

But Atletico have done nothing the easy way this season, with their 10-point lead in February cut to two in May and their position at the top of the table relying on numerous slip-ups from both Real Madrid and Barcelona.

So it was apt that faced with beating Real Valladolid, who were 19th in the table, they still had to scrape over the line.

Several hundred Atletico fans gathered in Valladolid’s Plaza Mayor in the hours before kick-off to sing songs and a similar number made it outside the stadium, where they were cordoned off in a cess-pit of nerves and anticipation.

Players screamed

Suarez had a couple of early openings but any hopes for a comfortable afternoon were dashed in the 18th minute when Valladolid took the lead.

It came from an Atletico corner as Yannick Carrasco lost the ball and Valladolid broke at speed, pinging passes through midfield and finally through to Oscar Plano, the former Real Madrid youngster who pulled away and fired past Jan Oblak.

There was plenty of time left and the other consolation for Atletico was Real Madrid fell behind too, Gerard Moreno’s poked pass causing confusion at the back, with Yeremi Pino prodding Villarreal into the lead.

Atletico pushed as Suarez’s effort curled wide and Felipe headed straight at Jordi Masip but they also looked for calm. Players screamed at Oblak to give the team a moment to regroup. Simeone told the substitutes to quieten down.

Atletico Madrid´s players toss Atletico Madrid's Argentine coach Diego Simeone after winning the Spanish league football match against Real Valladolid FC and the Liga Championship title at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Atletico Madrid´s players toss Atletico Madrid’s Argentine coach Diego Simeone after winning the Spanish league football match against Real Valladolid FC and the Liga Championship title at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on May 22, 2021. CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

Both title contenders were trailing at half-time but Atletico came out with renewed vigour and a crucial few minutes fell their way.

Real Madrid struck first, Benzema heading in Casemiro’s cross before Angel Correa levelled for Atletico as well, collecting on the edge of the area and firing through the legs of Jawad El Yamiq.

Atletico’s equaliser, though, was made all the more precious after Real Madrid’s was ruled out, Benzema’s left arm shown to be offside by VAR.

Valladolid might have scored again but Shon Weissman headed over with the goal gaping and then Atletico took the lead, a gift of a pass-back by Sergi Guardiola allowing Suarez to skip clear.

Suarez slid the ball past Masip before ending up under a pile of Atletico teammates.

Real Madrid equalised in the 87th minute, Benzema curving a delightful finish into the top corner and it was still not over, Modric scoring again to leave Atletico with some nail-biting final moments.

They got over the line.