Football: Atletico Madrid sign Portugal winger Gelson Martins, Diego Simeone bullish about club's future

Portugal's forward Gelson Martins arrives at the Zhukovsky airport, about 40 km southeast of Moscow, on July 1, 2018.
Portugal's forward Gelson Martins arrives at the Zhukovsky airport, about 40 km southeast of Moscow, on July 1, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Atletico Madrid earned bragging rights over city rivals Real Madrid by finishing second above them in LaLiga last season.

And, with the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus, Diego Simeone's side are perfectly placed to establish themselves as the dominant force in the capital.

Not only have Atletico kept Antoine Griezmann, they have also strengthened the squad by signing Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Rodri (Villarreal), Jonny Castro (Celta Vigo) and Antonio Adan (Real Betis). Their latest was the capture of Portugal winger Gelson Martins as a free agent on a six-year deal from Sporting Lisbon.

"We have been watching him over the last year and we saw him in the Europa League," Simeone said at a press conference at the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore on Wednesday (July 25).

"He will bring us added strength on the right-hand side of the attack and can even play in an attacking trio."

While the World Cup has meant the likes of Griezmann and PSG's Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are notable absentees here, Simeone sees this as a chance for the young stars to step up.

He said: "What is most important here is that the new guys will have the chance to play and compete for the first team, and it will give them what they need to know what it's like at Atletico."

The Argentinian remained unfazed at speculation that Italian giants Juventus are interested in signing Atletico's veteran defender Diego Godin.

Simeone said: "It is not a surprise; we are used to having the big clubs coming in for our best players."

With the Rojiblancos flexing their financial muscle to spend a club-record €70 million (S$112 million) for Lemar and moving into their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium last year, Simeone was bullish about the future.

He said: "The growth of the club will determine the growth of the team and this is how the fans will feel after all these investments. This shows the growth of the team and it will be on the level of the big teams in Europe."