While Real Madrid and Barcelona remained very quiet in the January transfer window, Atlético Madrid made a couple of very shrewd moves to aid their La Liga title push and safeguard the club’s future fortunes.
The Vicente Calderón outfit signed Brazilian playmaker Diego on loan from Wolfsburg for the rest of the season, which in turn allowed talented youngster Óliver Torres to move to Villarreal on a temporary deal.
Diego’s return to the Spanish capital will be a popular move amongst Los Colchoneros fans, as the South American schemer had a vastly successful season on loan at Atlético back in 2011-12.
His first campaign with the Spanish side resulted in Europa League success, as Diego made up for the departure of Sergio Agüero to Manchester City by forming a formidable attacking partnership with Radamel Falcao.
Diego Simeone’s men have progressed considerably since the Brazilian’s initial time at the club, but his addition will give the Argentine coach more creativity and guile in his attacking options.
With Atlético playing their 4-4-2 formation, it is likely that Diego will be in direct competition with David Villa for a place in the side’s attack alongside Diego Costa. The Brazilian has all the attributes to be a perfect foil for the club’s top goalscorer, but the ethos of the side has changed slightly since 2011-12.
Simeone implores his side to work hard off the ball, pressing opposition and committing to tackles – something that Diego will need to take on board; especially as Villa works as hard as any other player on the pitch when he plays.
If Diego can show any semblance of the form that made him a fans’ favourite in his first tenure at the club, it is likely that the 28-year-old will return to Spain on a permanent basis, as his Wolfsburg contract expires this summer.
The ex-Juventus man’s arrival allows Atlético to let Óliver Torres move on to Villarreal on a loan until the end of the season, which could be extended to include all of next term also if the sides agree.
Despite the 19-year-old’s considerable ability, first-team opportunities for the teenager have been few and far between this season, with the prospect only featuring in seven La Liga games and starting just two.
The move to a Villarreal side pushing for a place in the top six of the table in their first season back in the top flight makes real sense, with the star set to be given the chance to play more often and show just how good he is.
The teenager has starred at Spanish age-grade level, playing a part in the under-19 side winning the European Championships in 2012. Since then he has gone on to feature for the under-21 outfit and is regarded as one of the most technically gifted young players coming out of the Iberian nation.
If the attacker can win a regular place in the Estadio El Madrigal first team, it may well be wise for Atlético to allow him to remain with the loan club for an extra 12 months to further his footballing education.
As such, he could be as good as a new high-profile signing for the Vicente Calderón outfit by the time he is ready to return to his parent club.
With Atletico right in the mix heading into the business end of the season, astute January transfer business could be a real boost in the club’s quest for major honours.