Diego Costa one of five players Atletico Madrid should sign before transfer ban
With the prospect of a transfer ban looming large, time is running out for Atleti to make their moves in the transfer market.
Despite shopping in a different stratosphere than city rivals Real Madrid, Atletico will still want to make a splash before they are prevented from doing so again until summer 2017. Here we take a look at who might be on manager Diego Simeone's radar towards the end of January.
Michy Batshuayi (Forward, Marseille)
Atletico's lack of a genuine No. 9 to partner with Antoine Griezmann has come back to haunt them on a number of occasions this campaign and never was it more evident than during last Sunday's disappointing 0-0 draw with Sevilla. If he did not know it before, Simeone now knows he cannot rely purely on Griezmann to score and the defence to keep clean sheets.
Step forward Michy Batshuayi. The Belgian, 22, has 12 goals in 21 starts for a mediocre Marseille side and is being talked about as the best striker his country has ahead of Euro 2016. Possessing bags of pace, power and an eye for goal, he is everything the modern forward should be and is still young enough to be moulded by the Argentine. Should Atleti not act now, he will end up elsewhere before they can sign again.
Diego Costa (Forward, Chelsea)
Hardly the most creative of choices, however, with Costa looking disillusioned in London this season, combined with Atletico's lack of spark up top, it seems a homecoming would suit all parties. He brings all the Simeone trademarks of fire, passion and a bit of needle in addition to goals.
With Fernando Torres surely destined for the exit when his deal expires in the summer, Atleti could quite feasibly need to bring in more than one forward during the coming days, especially given the rumoured interest from the Blues in Jackson Martinez.
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In Costa, Atletico would know exactly what they are getting and as rare as they are in football, a potential swap deal could be on the cards. Simeone knows how to push Costa's buttons in order to extract the kind of form he showed when he was arguably the best player in a league containing Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as Atleti lifted La Liga in 2013-14. With Atleti level-pegging at the top of the table now, the 27-year-old's goals could once again help fire them to glory.
Pedro (Forward, Chelsea)
Success for Atleti in 2014 saw Chelsea complete a raid on the Spanish capital. However, with a number of players said to be unhappy at Stamford Bridge, Los Colchoneros can now put the shoe on the other foot and look to take advantage. For one reason or another, things have not worked out for Pedro at Chelsea, and with Atleti's well-documented lack of firepower, the former Barcelona forward is another player who can come in immediately and do a very good job.
He knows the league, speaks the language, has a proven goal-scoring record and most crucially is willing to work tirelessly for the team. With only Yannick Carrasco offering any sort of width, Pedro would breathe new life into the forward line, while Atletico can also help boost the player's hopes of a Euro 2016 call up. Win-win.
Mario Gaspar (Right-back, Villarreal)
While he caught the eye in November with a sensational bicycle kick against England, Gaspar will be no stranger to followers of Spanish football. Instrumental as Villarreal earned promotion from the Segunda in 2013, he has gone from strength to strength ever since. While Juanfran -- his rival for the spot in the national team -- is one of Simeone's most trusted lieutenants, he has just turned 31 and will not be able to keep his levels of consistency and athleticism up forever.
Gaspar turned 25 in November and, on paper is the natural successor for both club and country, possessing the kind of levels of boundless energy Juanfran does in addition to a quality end product. Atleti could sweeten the deal by signing him now and allowing him to remain on loan at Villarreal for the rest of the campaign, as the Yellow Submarine attempt to secure Champions League qualification. Failure to sign him now will mean another 18 months with the ageing duo of Juanfran and his backup Jesus Gamez (30), which is a big risk and one the club should not take.
Sead Kolasinac (Left-back, Schalke)
With Guilherme Siqueira seemingly destined for a summer exit and Filipe Luis turning 31 in August, there is also a need to freshen up the left side of the defence as well as the right. At just 22, Kolasinac fits the bill perfectly. Having racked up more than 50 appearances for Schalke and a full international with Bosnia-Herzegovina already, the youngster can come in now, have six months to acclimatise before pushing Luis next season -- with whom he shares many of the same qualities.
The fact that Kolasinac was born in Germany and thus qualifies as an EU player under La Liga legislation helps in terms of long-term squad planning. His impressive form and potential has seen him linked with a move to Manchester City and Roma this month, however Atletico would be wise to swoop in before their transfer ban sets in. Kolasinac is another player who will likely not be available when Los Rojiblancos are again permitted to make signings in 18 months' time.
Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.