MADRID (AP) — It had been a quiet transfer window for Atlético Madrid.
The Spanish club didn’t plan on making any big signings or selling any of its top players from last season. After all, it had just gone through one of its biggest revamps under coach Diego Simeone following the departure of key players such as Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godín and Filipe Luis.
Following a transitional year with a series of new players, including Portuguese forward João Félix, Simeone had his squad set and was celebrating the opportunity to enter the new season without major squad changes.
Then Luis Suárez suddenly became available, and Atlético didn’t waste any time going after the talented striker who thrived with Barcelona but was not wanted by incoming coach Ronald Koeman.
There has been nothing official announced by the clubs yet, but Spanish media said Atlético was close to adding the Uruguayan to its squad. The holdup was with Barcelona, which was reportedly making things difficult because it didn’t want Suárez to join one of its biggest rivals domestically.
Atlético didn’t appear to be in the running to sign Suárez when Koeman told the striker he was not in his plans last month. Suárez appeared set to join Juventus in Italy, and had even taken a test to receive a European passport that could help him complete the move.
But new developments have worked in Atlético’s favor in recent days, as Juventus reportedly gave up on the deal with Suárez because the passport process would take too long. Also, Italian authorities said they were investigating whether Suárez was illegally helped to pass the Italian language exam that was a requirement for him to receive the passport.
With Suárez not in its plans anymore, Juventus had to look for another forward, and the one it wanted was Atlético’s Álvaro Morata, who reportedly already underwent a medical to join the Italian champions.
Morata’s eventual departure would clear space in Atlético’s budget to bring in Suárez, a player often praised by Simeone and who carries that same hard-working, never-give-up attitude as the Argentine coach.
Suárez would fit in well on Atlético’s squad, which would be left with Diego Costa as its main striker if the Morata deal with Juventus was confirmed. Suárez scored 21 goals for Barcelona last season, the same amount as Costa (five) and Morata (16) combined for Atlético. Félix, who arrived to replace Griezmann, has yet to meet expectations and had only nine goals in his debut season.
Many in Spain said the deal to sign Suárez was all but done, as he had reached an agreement to end his contract with Barcelona and could leave for free. But Barcelona reportedly backtracked and said the deal has yet to be finalized. The Mundo Deportivo daily said Barcelona at the last minute included Atlético on the list of teams to which Suárez couldn’t leave for free, along with others such as Real Madrid, Manchester City and Liverpool.
With or without Suárez, Atlético will make its Spanish league debut on Sunday against Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Atlético’s first two games were postponed because it played late into last season in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Barcelona and Europa League champion Sevilla also had their first two games postponed.
Atlético’s morning practice session on Tuesday was canceled because the club could not get all the test results for COVID-19 back in time.
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