[dropcap]A[/dropcap]head of Atlético Madrid hosting Spanish and European champions Barcelona at the Estadio Vicente Calderón this weekend, spirits are high at the capital city club.
Diego Simeone’s men have recruited well in the off-season, with a renewed sense of optimism that the new faces can play a part in Los Colchoneros putting forward a potential La Liga title challenge in 2015-16.
One of the most publicised additions for Atlético has been the purchase of Luciano Vietto from Villarreal, with the hotshot forward set to renew his relationship with former boss Simeone in Spain.
Adjudged as one of Argentina’s rising stars, the supremely gifted attacker is surely set to benefit from working with Simeone once more after their mutual days at Racing Club.
However, one of the pair’s mutual countrymen is also set for an introduction at the Vicente Calderón, with potential for Matias Kranevitter to become a major player for the Spanish side.
Simeone has returned to another of his ex-employers, River Plate, to snatch up the prodigious midfielder during the off-season.
Kranevitter was a member of the Buenos Aires outfit’s youth academy when Simeone was at the helm in 2007 and 2008, but the Atlético boss has clearly had a close eye on the 22-year-old for some time.
A player that is cut in the classic Argentine number five mould, Kranevitter put pen-to-paper on a deal to move to the Spanish capital in the summer but will not join up with his new team until January, spending the rest of the year back on loan at River.
The defensive midfielder has gained significant hype in his homeland for ever-improving performances at the Estadio Monumental and made his full international debut for Argentina in the 7-0 humbling of Bolivia earlier this month.
Kranevitter has been compared to Javier Mascherano in some corners, but in truth his attributes differ to the Barcelona man.
Not a powerhouse battler like his illustrious compatriot and of relatively slight build, the 22-year-old’s real virtues lie in his positional discipline, ability to win the ball cleanly and boundless energy and work rate.
However, the rising star also has the range of passing and vision to be something of a deep-lying playmaker, starting attacks with his distribution.
Given that Simeone was an all-action central midfielder in his playing days, the tutelage that Kranevitter is set to receive in Spain could well take him to the next level and make him a household name.
For Atlético, Kranevitter’s introduction mid-season will be a welcome boost and act as a new signing to bolster their squad.
Over the years central midfielders Gabi and Tiago have been the heartbeat of Simeone’s team, with their influence, continual harrying of the opposition and box-to-box energy key to Atleti’s unique pressing game.
However, with both starting to age slightly, the incorporation of some younger legs will be something the club will have in the back of their minds, with a long-term new pairing of Kranevitter and Koke a mouth-watering proposition.
As always, adapting to life in Europe will be one of the major challenges for the new Atlético star, with the example of Fernando Gago showing that all not all South Americans prosper when heading overseas, regardless of ability.
However, the early indications are that Kranevitter will be an important player for both club and country, with countryman Simeone’s priceless stewardship invaluable in this exciting star’s development.
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