Atletico Madrid Celebrating a centenary

AFP

After weeks of tough negotiations, the most important signing in Atletico Madrid‘s history became official on July 4, 2019.

Los Rojiblancos needed a substitute for Antoine Griezmann, their star for the last five years, as he was off to Barcelona, and Miguel Angel Gil Marin insisted that Joao Felix was the heir to the Frenchman’s throne.

Gil Marin was victorious over Real Madrid and Manchester City in securing the Benfica starlet for 127 million euros, a deal which a few years ago would have been impossible.

Now, the 19-year-old was to put the weight of one of Europe’s great clubs on his shoulders.

It didn’t take Joao Felix long to amaze those who hadn’t seen him previously. In fact, it was just his third game for Atletico when he helped demolish Real Madrid in the now famous New Jersey derby. He scored his first goal, and assisted another two for Diego Costa.

It was then he name bagan being spoke of as the next great European talent. A repeat performance against the MLS All-Star team in Orlando, before rounding off a wonderful pre-season with two goals and another great game against Juventus.

And then the serious competitions came. LaLiga Santander, and the Champions League where the opponents aren’t so easy to step aside. Getafe and Leganes were the first two to keep him quiet, and not always in the fairest of ways.

Neither against Juventus nor Real Madrid did he show was he is capable of, and in the derby particularly, where the pressure is at its highest, he was poor.

One of the most recurring debates in his first 100 days is the number of matches in which Diego Simeone has decided to substitute Felix. In eight of the 10 games played so far, he has failed to finish the 90 minutes with Thomas Lemar coming in second with five substitutions.

The physical intensity, or at least that needed in Cholo‘s system, is something the Portuguese has to change. LaLiga Santander and the Champions League are more intense than Liga NOS, and his coach knows that he is not yet fully prepared to endure 90 minute duels.

His most rounded performance in an official match for Atletico. He scored and started the move for the second goal with a great pass. Lokomotiv Moscow witnessed a more decisive, intense and involved Joao Felix. His strike also earned him the accolade of youngest Atletico player to score in the Champions League, taking that record from Sergio Aguero.

Some of his poor performances this season can’t be solely attributed to Felix himself. In several games, his strike partners have come under fire for failing to link up with the No.7, whether on the left, right or as a second striker.

Simeone prefers he is on the right with space ahead of him, which happens when Diego Costa are Alvaro Morata on the field, but that then causes him to be too far from the goal to assist his teammates.

Although there aren’t many voices criticising the high price for he player, who is of course a long term project, he has already become the team’s top scorer. His three goals put him ahead of Vitolo and Thomas Partey, which is a surprise given the team has Costa and Morata up front.

Be that as it may, the first 100 days of Joao Felix at Atletico have had some periods of darkness and other bright moments, and now we will see is he is able to shine more throughout the campaign.


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