One of the key aspects of Atlético Madrid’s unlikely La Liga title success last season was a continuity in Diego Simeone’s team selection, with a core group of trusted players featuring in the bulk of the team’s matches.
After a summer upheaval in the playing squad that saw Diego Costa, Filipe Luís, Thibaut Courtois, David Villa and Adrián leave the Estadio Vicente Calderón, effective recruitment ahead of 2014-15 was seen as vital if Atleti were to continue to mix it with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Although the likes of Mario Mandžukić and Antoine Griezmann have added to the strength of Atlético’s squad, another significant signing has failed to live up to his reputation and promise.
Alessio Cerci was brought to the Spanish capital in the closing days of the summer transfer market for a cool €16 million, but has struggled to make an impact for his new club.
The versatile forward formed an exciting attacking partnership with Ciro Immobile at Torino last term, breaking into the Italy national set-up as a result of 13 Serie A goals and a league-high ten assists.
When the 27-year-old penned his deal with the Spanish champions, sporting director José Luis Perez Caminero stated Cerci would “contribute speed, goals…He’s going to give us more alternatives in our attacking play” – but this promise has simply not come to fruition.
In a frustrating opening six months at Atlético, Cerci is yet to start a La Liga fixture and has only had 114 minutes on the pitch in six substitute appearances; the rumours are starting to fly that the Italian could be loaned elsewhere come January.
With the likes of Koke and Arda Turan key men in Atlético’s rise to prominence, Griezmann offering an extra wide option and Raul Garcia coming of age, Cerci’s opportunities to play look likely to continue to be limited.
The Italian winger, who was part of the Azzurri contingent for the World Cup in the summer, is one of a number of highly rated internationals to sign for Atleti in recent times – only to struggle for game time and be farmed out elsewhere.
Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld was in high demand after rising to prominence at Ajax, and opted to sign for Atlético ahead of suitors in some of Europe’s other major divisions last summer.
Robust French defensive midfielder Josuha Guilavogui was also acquired by Simeone’s men last summer after star performances in Ligue 1 – the former Saint-Étienne enforcer was being compared in some quarters to Patrick Vieira for his physical and footballing virtues.
Atlético splashed €12 million on the 24-year-old ahead of last season, but Guilavogui only lasted six months at the Calderón.
The France international featured in only one minute of La Liga action as a substitute against Celta Vigo last October, before being sent back to Saint-Étienne in the January transfer window.
Simeone decreed that Guilavogui was surplus to requirements ahead of this term also, with the midfielder farmed out to Wolfsburg; he is playing a key role in the heart of the Volkswagen Arena outfit’s team this season alongside Luiz Gustavo, with Dieter Hecking’s men sitting second in the Bundesliga.
Just how much influence and say Simeone had in bringing this triumvirate of international players to Atlético remains to be seen. By all accounts the three signings, totally roughly €35 million, represent a huge waste of transfer funds.
Cerci is an exciting and respected international player, who has the quality to turn his fortunes at Atlético around if given a chance to play.
However, it looks more likely that the former Torino star will follow in Alderweireld and Guilavogui’s shoes and have to look elsewhere for regular first-team action.