Atletico Madrid

WATCH: Spain’s Saul smashes a shot past Italy’s Donnarumma

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Since returning from a loan at Rayo Vallecano, Saul Niguez has been a somewhat under the radar star at Atletico Madrid.

Coming off his best season with Atleti, the 22-year-old Saul is making an even bigger name for himself at the U-21 EURO this summer.

Spain’s Saul scored a hat trick past Gianluigi Donnarumma and Italy on Tuesday, and the second goal was laced with venom.

Getting onto the ball from 30-plus yards out, Saul smashed his shot with enough power that the ball barely had occasion to rotate.

Saul is under contract at the Vicente Calderon through 2022, and has three caps for Spain’s senior team, too. He was rated Atleti’s third-best performer by WhoScored this season.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Walker to City close, Inter wants Szczesny

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With the start of preseason getting closer, teams are hoping to do their business in time to get new players a full bill of health and fitness before the new season. With that in mind, the transfer action truly begins to heat up with clubs under the crunch of time.

With Manchester City heading to the United States for a preseason tour of America, they’re looking to do deals before the trip begins to have everyone on board. Kyle Walker has been heavily linked with City, and it looks like Daniel Levy’s steadfasness will pay off yet again for the London side.

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According to a report in the Daily Mail, Tottenham will wriggle nearly $62 million from City for Walker’s services. Levy knows that Pep Guardiola is desperate for top-tier full-backs after seeing his full bank of players in that position struggle mightily. Now, Levy may successfully extract a small fortune for his England international, and with plenty of time to re-invest on his replacement. The report suggests the deal could be done in time for Walker to face Spurs in their friendly on July 29th in Nashville.

Sticking to full-backs, Juventus may be looking to replace both its standout performers on the flanks last season. Dani Alves seems set to move on, while Alex Sandro has been heavily linked to Chelsea.

Hoping to pull in top-level replacements in a position that proves to be quite top-heavy throughout the world, Juventus has turned to Southampton’s Cedric Soares. The 25-year-old has enjoyed a bright Confederations Cup on duty with Portugal, and may have turned heads in Italy as a result.

The report from Italian publication Tuttosport linking Cedric to the Old Lady states that, while Juventus will first look to pry Danilo from Real Madrid, Cedric could be a cheaper option with his price tag under $22 million. The article also mentions Valencia’s Joao Cancelo as an option for Juventus at the right-back spot.

Alexandre Lacazette is a top striker option on the market this summer, and while it feels like his domino is waiting to fall after Kylian Mbappe’s, there could be a wrinkle involved with the Lyon frontman.

Atletico Madrid was heavily linked to Lacazette as a replacement for Antoine Griezmann before their transfer ban was handed down. Now, with Griezmann staying, those links cooled as Atleti is unable to register new players until the January transfer window. Yet, there may still be a chance for the Spanish side to land yet another French striker.

According to loose-lipped Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, Atletico Madrid submitted a large offer for Lacazette, and the Spanish side is still a heavy player in the story. Should Atleti’s bid be accepted, Lacazette would likely stay at Lyon for the first half of the season and complete his transfer to Spain in the winter transfer window. Aulas said Atletico’s offer was in the area of $75 million, including bonuses. That’s some stiff competition for Arsenal or any other big-name club hoping to secure Lacazette’s signature.

Aulas also confirmed he met with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on June 13th during the match between England and France. Just yesterday, there were reports that Arsenal was preparing a large bid for the Frenchman.

In the same interview, Aulas also confirmed that Chelsea youngster Bertrand Traore is close to a move to Lyon. Aulas said that the 21-year-old is currently in Lyon to finalize the move, although the fee had yet to be finalized, only saying that it was “considerable.”

Traore, a Burkina Faso international, was an AJ Auxerre youth product before joining Chelsea’s youth ranks in 2013. The young attacker spent last season on loan at Dutch club Ajax where he made 39 appearances across all competitions, scoring 13 goals and assisting six.

Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has benefitted greatly from his two-year loan spell at AS Roma. Despite his future looking bleak with the Gunners, Szczesny is a wanted man in Italy.

Linked with a bid from Juventus earlier this month, Szczesny has now been heavily connected to his former Roma manager Luciano Spaletti who has recently taken charge at Inter Milan. Spaletti already has one of the best pure shot-stoppers in Europe in Samir Handanovic, but according to reports in Italy, Spaletti wants Handanovic to improve with the ball at his feet, something which he praised Szczesny for earlier this week.

Spaletti, hoping to diffuse interest in Szczesny, told Sky Sports Italia on Thursday, “We already have Samir Handanovic, who is very experienced and strong. I’ve already worked with him and I know his quality. For the moment we’ve got him. Obviously Szczesny is a modern player, because he can use his feet and in modern football you need that to start moves from the back.”

Now, reports in Italy say Spaletti has asked Handanovic to undergo targeted training hoping to improve his ability with the ball at his feet. Should he refuse, the club would look to sell the Serbian in favor of Szczesny, a move which could also potentially net the club some cash.

With Romelu Lukaku rumors seeing renewed fervor after the player enjoyed a pickup game on a field branded with Chelsea logos, the Everton striker has taken to social media to vent his frustration.

Lukaku has told reporters multiple times that returning to Everton is not really an option, and that he has an agreement with a club already, but otherwise, the Chelsea links are all fans have to go off at this time.

Antoine Griezmann signs new Atletico deal; Man United dream over?

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Just a few days after he seemed likely to leave, Atletico Madrid have announced that Antoine Griezmann has signed a new contract.

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Griezmann, 26, has extended his stay at Atleti until 2022 as Diego Simeone’s men enter a new era at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on the outskirts of Madrid for the 2017-18 season.

With Manchester United seemingly walking away from any deal for Griezmann — due to their own needs and the fact that Atletico’s FIFA transfer ban was upheld — the French international will remain at Atletico Madrid for at least the 2016-17 season.

Here is his statement as he extended his deal for another season at Atleti.

“The first thing that I want to do is apologize to the people who misunderstood my statements,” Griezmann said. “Maybe I expressed myself badly or someone wanted to make news where there weren’t any, but since I came, I have given my all for my club, my teammates and my coaching staff, and I’m very happy to live one more season with all of you.”

The big news in this contract extension is that, according to widespread reports, the release clause of $100 million has not been taken out, so Griezmann could walk away from Atletico next summer if someone bids that amount.

It is being seen as a noble act for Griezmann to stand by Atletico when they have a transfer ban (the Court of Arbitration for Sport, CAS, upheld FIFA’s transfer ban for Atleti after they were found guilty of breaching rules regarding signing players under the age of 18) restricting their transfer activity until January 2018 when they can sign new players again.

Atletico would not be able to sign a replacement for Griezmann if he left this summer, but now they won’t have to worry about that for at least another season.

As for United’s dreams of signing Griezmann, are they over? With Jose Mourinho cooling on a move for Griezmann this summer, it could appear that the Red Devils are happy with their attacking options and don’t see Griezmann as someone that can usurp Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford in attack.

It could be a decision United come to regret as Griezmann would undoubtedly strengthen their attack and even though the Red Devils appear to be switching their attention to a target forward in the shape of Alvaro Morata and Andrea Belotti, it would not be surprising to see them move for Griezmann next summer.

Diego Costa says he has “to find a way out” of Conte’s Chelsea

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Diego Costa says he’s not wanted by Chelsea, and Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban makes his situation even more difficult.

Costa claims that Antonio Conte informed him that he’s not part of his plans next season, and also says that he cannot wait for Atleti’s ban to be lifted.

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That’s what we call a Grade A predicament, though we imagine there are plenty of suitors in the market for a gigantic striker who scores goals by the dozen.

From The Guardian:

“My relationship with the coach has been bad this season. I suppose I’ve had a bad season so I can’t go on,” Costa said.

“I’m going to be honest, the other day, Conte sent me a message saying he does not count on me for next season, so I’ll have to find a way out.”

The 28-year-old is coming off his second 20-goal Premier League season in three tries, and could take a big pay day at any number of clubs. Costa could even select a team for a season with the understanding that he’d leave for Atleti after the year.

In terms of Premier League clubs, Costa has experience playing for Jose Mourinho though it would be odd for Chelsea to sell him to a title rival (which also rules out an Arsenal side which would relish his presence).

AC Milan has been willing to spend in Italy, and Costa’s game would not be alien in Germany’s Bundesliga. Given the way Zlatan Ibrahimovic dominated Ligue 1, Costa could also spend a year there.

Costa has said he’s not interested in China, so we have a rather hilarious idea for him: Sign for the next four months in MLS, score 30 goals, then take two months off before going to Atleti. Seriously. Ask LA for a percentage of jersey sales. They’d love it.

Antoine Griezmann confirms Atletico Madrid stay

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Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann has confirmed he will stay at Atletico Madrid this summer following the club’s failure to skirt a transfer ban.

The Frenchman had been linked with a move away, most heavily with Manchester United, but after the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected the club’s appeal, the club would have been unable to sign a replacement. Griezmann refused to leave Diego Simeone in such a position, and therefore made his decision.

Speaking to French television channel Telefoot, Griezmann explained his decision. “Atlético cannot recruit,” he said. “Together with my agent, Eric Olhats, we decided to stay. It’s a hard time for the club. It would be a dirty move to leave now. We talked to the leaders and we will be back for next season.”

Atletico’s transfer ban only lasts through this summer and ends January 1st, so it’s possible that Griezmann could end up leaving in the winter transfer window. The club was sanctioned for a breach of transfer rules regarding minors. A similar punishment for similar violations was recently brought down on both Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Barcelona unable to sign players for the 2015 calendar year, while Real Madrid’s ban was lifted by a one-man CAS panel leaving them only incapacitated for the January 2017 window.

Rumors involving Griezmann had always been pending the CAS decision, although many expected the club to see a favorable ruling since Real Madrid was let off easy in the winter.

Manchester United will now be forced to look elsewhere, with links to Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata picking up steam. There have been rumblings of a swap deal for Morata involving David De Gea, with cash likely needed from Madrid to even the pot.