Diego Simeone remains uncertain over Fernando Torres' Atletico future
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone replied with a simple no when asked if he would battle to keep Fernando Torres at the club beyond the summer.
Torres is out of contract in June and has scored just two goals in 16 appearances in La Liga so far this season. The veteran has also seen his starting time further limited since January, when Diego Costa became available to join Antoine Griezmann, Kevin Gameiro and Angel Correa as options in attack.
At a news conference ahead of the second leg of Atletico's Europa League round-of-32 tie at home to FC Copenhagen, Simeone was asked whether he would make the same effort with Torres that he is doing to keep Griezmann at the club.
"No," was the full extent of the Argentine's answer.
Simeone later clarified his position when talking to FOX Mexico.
"The question was looking for controversy," he said. "And being honest, I said no as I think about the team and the question was not thinking about the team. There is one group who do not think about the team, just one individual. The difference with me is that I think about the team."
Asked directly whether this was Torres' last season at the club, Simeone said that "would have to be decided between the club, Fernando and [the coaches]."
Such a stance contrasts with what Simeone said last week about Antoine Griezmann.
"If I was an Atletico fan, I would do everything possible not to lose Griezmann," Simeone said, with renewed speculation that the France international could leave for Barcelona or Manchester United next summer.
Options for the 33-year-old Torres, a former Liverpool, Chelsea and AC Milan player, appear to be more limited at this stage of his career, with the former Atletico youth teamer saying in December that he hoped to remain at the club "for many more years."
Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the former Spain international's representatives, Bahia International, told Mundo Deportivo that he would replace Simeone as Atletico coach due to the team's "boring" playing style.
"Tomorrow morning I would replace Simeone," Antonio Sanz said. "Atletico Madrid would bore the sheep to sleep. They have spent €100 million on two players, and that was not to finish second."
Since returning to Atletico in January 2015, Torres has scored 33 goals in 142 appearances in all competitions.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan