3 Potential replacements for Diego Godin at Atletico Madrid
Background image: Roberto, CC BY-SA 4.0
The end of an era beckons for Atletico Madrid. On Tuesday, captain Diego Godin announced his departure from the Spanish capital after almost a decade. A key reason for their remarkable Liga success in 2014, the Uruguayan was Los Colchoneros' defensive foundation. A leader at the back, he marshalled his troops like a war general, holding everything together against the harshest attacks.
The 33-year-old was Diego Simeone’s trusted captain, helping the Argentine manager rival the Clasico duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona. How many times did he put his body on the line to rescue Atleti's blushes? Godin’s clever positioning sense, dominant personality and consistency ranked him among the world's best centre-halves.
Time is the opponent he couldn't deny, however. The new era requires a changing of the guard. It’s difficult to find an unbreakable centre-back like Godin. Here are three possibilities.
The Belgian international is available for a return to the club where he first turned heads. Alderweireld was included in their La Liga winning team as an understudy. Mauricio Pochettino snapped him up in 2015. It was a shrewd decision that every Premier League fan knows paid massive dividends, perhaps culminating in a Champions League triumph where it all began for the defender this June in Atleti's new ground, the Wanda Metropolitano. Will Diego Simeone be in the crowd?
The 30-year-old can be had on the cheap this summer due to a clause in his contract. Atletico should try to do him right this time. Alderweireld’s cool demeanour, exquisite distribution and intelligent defending should suit Simeone’s system. He’s aggressive when needed and can hold down a defensive line. Ready to move out of Jan Vertonghen’s shadow, he can showcase his leadership qualities in Atletico’s defence.
Alderwereild's composed defending can mix well with Jose Gimenez’s tough-tackling one to create a new, harmonious partnership. He is the best option for a seamless change.
The hottest prospect in the market, Napoli's Goliath could be the strong leader Atletico crave. The 27-year-old’s been the heart of Gli Azzurri's defence since arriving from Genk for the 2014/15 season. His hard-hitting style puts forwards on notice. He loves to put in tackles but also organises Carlo Ancelotti's rearguard. Sadly, Italy's rampant racism has him looking abroad for a new club.
He won't hear monkey chants and other slurs in Spain. His talent and leadership will be respected even if there are few faces of colour in La Liga team photos. The Senegalese international quite literally pushes his teammates to the limit, forcing them to close down oppositions. Barging in to win possession is his speciality.
He also makes sound decisions once the ball is at his feet. The 27-year-old can adapt well to Simeone's tactics, synchronizing perfectly with Gimenez to create an impenetrable defensive line.
Eder Militao became the talk of the Spanish capital when Real Madrid signed him. His partner at Porto may evoke the same buzz. Los Blancos did well by signing the apprentice. Atleti can go one better by recruiting the master. While his younger compatriot gained the spotlight for his solid work in Liga Nos, Felipe is equally important to Os Dragoes success.
A commanding centre-back, the 29-year-old knows exactly when to intervene. Felipe’s impressive pace, tackling ability and positional sense make him a tough nut for strikers to crack. He boasts aerial superiority as well thanks to his 6' 3" frame. Plus, he reads defences like your gran reads a bedtime story, putting attacks to sleep in no time.
The 29-year-old's leadership ranks alongside Alderweireld and Koulibaly's. Diego Simeone's backline would be in capable hands with any of the trio.