Michy Batshuayi a perfect fit for Atletico in January transfer window
With the transfer window upon us, here's a look at what to expect from Atletico Madrid ...
Will Diego Simeone be busy in the transfer market?
It looks like there will be some movement. The club are sitting pretty as La Liga co-leaders, and thus opportunity knocks. One deal has already been confirmed and the Spanish press have touted a number of others during recent weeks.
Simeone fueled the fire at a recent news conference by saying, "whenever the January window comes, we are open to any situation." And with a chance to push on and claim a second league title in three years, there is no reason for Los Rojiblancos not to look for new recruits.
While Simeone's demanding methods have made it difficult for new recruits to fit in immediately, the very real threat of a transfer ban in the summer is looming over both Atletico and city neighbours Real Madrid. The club could do worse than preparing for any potential sanction by recruiting now or setting up a number of deals, even if it is for players to arrive in the summer. As Barcelona previously showed with Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Alen Halilovic, the important thing is getting the paperwork done beforehand.
What do Atleti need?
Atletico have shipped only eight goals in the league this season and the back line has been rock solid. Jan Oblak has been outstanding in goal, while the centre-back duo of Jose Maria Gimenez and Diego Godin is arguably the best pairing in Europe right now. Couple this with the consistency of Filipe Luis and Juanfran on the flanks and the quality backups in each of the positions across the back five, and it's difficult to see where or why any new arrivals would be targeted.
However, last month's injury to Tiago has meant the club have been found wanting in terms of experience and nous in defensive midfield. The former Chelsea man turns 35 in May and a change was always going to come sooner rather than later -- albeit his broken leg has sped that process up somewhat.
Any Rojiblanco fan will tell you the side need to improve up top. Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto cost €55 million between them, but have really struggled. Fernando Torres, who will be 32 in March and has just six months left on his current contract, looks completely bereft of confidence akin to the version that skulked and sulked his way through three forgettable years at Chelsea.
While nobody can fault El Nino for his desire and application, the simple fact is he is paid to score goals -- something he looks incapable of doing now.
A striker that could come in and bag 15 goals between now and the end of the season would give Atleti a huge shot at glory on all three fronts and that should be a priority, especially if Martinez's performance levels show no signs of improving.
In other words: a defensive midfielder and striker should be seen as priorities.
Matias Kranevitter, a defensive midfielder at Simeone's former club River Plate, will arrive as soon as the window opens. He agreed to a deal in August and he comes in with quite the reputation and a ringing endorsement from the 45-year-old. "He's the midfielder that's most akin to Javier Mascherano in terms of characteristics," Simeone said of Kranevitter. "He's got a great future ahead of him."
Given Kranevitter will arrive on the back of a full season in South America, his fellow countryman Augusto Fernandez has been touted as a possible new arrival at the Calderon to help add depth and plug the gap in front of the back four.
Should the 29-year-old not arrive, however, it will not be the end of the world as Atleti's problems are more obvious up top. Amid the quest for more goals, a potential return for Diego Costa has been mooted, and the Spain international did not rule out a return when linked in September and again hinted at a return to the Spanish capital when talking to Spanish radio station Onda Cero. That, however, seems to have been denied by Atletico president Enrique Cerezo.
There seems to be a genuine belief from Simeone in the crop of forwards he has at his disposal, however a number of impotent displays in recent weeks might have changed that.
Michy Batshuayi of Marseille.
The hot-shot forward has everything Simeone is looking for. Just 22 and with lots of room for improvement, he is quick, strong and clinical. He has already been capped by Belgium at senior level despite their wealth of attacking talents. He seems certain to go to Euro 2016 in the summer and by acting now to secure his services, the club could save themselves a fortune given how prices inflate following standout tournament performances.
It would be a surprise to see anyone leave during the window, given the fact the club are fighting on three fronts. Perhaps Lucas Hernandez will be loaned out in order to secure more first-team football, which will bring long-term benefits. However apart from that, expect little movement.
Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.