Football: Good change for Atletico Madrid's youngsters

Simeone looks on the bright side with many first-teamers absent, is mum on player moves

French striker Kevin Gameiro, withdrawn in the second half against Arsenal, could lead the attack against PSG.
French striker Kevin Gameiro, withdrawn in the second half against Arsenal, could lead the attack against PSG.PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Atletico Madrid have been deprived of their top stars for the ongoing International Champions Cup (ICC) but coach Diego Simeone still wants his men to end their campaign in Singapore on the best possible note.

"We are playing against an important club," he said ahead of tonight's tie against French giants Paris Saint-Germain at the National Stadium. Atletico beat Arsenal in their opener on penalties (3-1) after the teams were tied 1-1 at full time.

"Although many players are missing, this is a chance for the others to perform and compete for a place.

"We have many young players and as a coach, I will do my best to promote these young players and get the best out of them."

He remained philosophical about the absence of his top players like Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, Diego Costa, Lucas Hernandez and Sime Vrsaljko, noting: "These things happen (players going away on international duty).

"We have a lot of players who had to play in the World Cup and this fills us with pride."

He also remained cool when grilled by the media on the transfer rumours surrounding the LaLiga runners-up.

Right-back Vrsaljko, part of the Croatian team that finished second at the World Cup two weeks ago, is reportedly poised to join Inter Milan on a year-long loan, with the Italian Serie A side given an option to sign him permanently after.

But Simeone declined to confirm the speculation, saying: "I'm very happy with Vrsaljko, he is a very good player. At the World Cup, he demonstrated his offensive prowess and he is critical to the team. But he will return to Atletico on Aug 6 and we will see what we need and take it from there."

There is also talk that Atletico, the Europa League holders, want to sign Chelsea's Olivier Giroud to intensify their firepower, but that was also swatted away by the 48-year-old Argentinian tactician.

One new player who could arrive soon is Portuguese winger Gelson Martins, who signed a six-year contract last week, joining from Sporting Lisbon. But the Portuguese club are reportedly demanding €100 million (S$157 million) compensation for the winger, who cancelled his contract after disgruntled Sporting fans stormed the training ground in May and attacked the players.

But Simeone deadpanned: "That is a thing that the relevant people at the club manage.

"Names keep popping up and we'll just have to be careful and leave it to the right people."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2018, with the headline 'Good chance for Atletico youngsters'. Subscribe