Diego Godín

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Simeone to face tough challenge without Griezmann, Godin

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MADRID (AP) More than ever, Diego Simeone will be put to the test as Atletico Madrid coach.

Simeone will begin next season facing the difficult challenge of keeping Atletico competitive after the departure of its biggest star, Antoine Griezmann, and other players who have been key to the team’s success in recent years.

He will also be without captain Diego Godin and defender Lucas Hernandez, and most likely will have to deal with the absence of players such as Juanfran Torres and Filipe Luis, who could be announcing their departures in the coming weeks.

Simeone will suddenly find himself having to put together a team without his core players, making his upcoming offseason work crucial to keep Atletico in contention for the top titles in European football.

The hardest player to replace will be, by far, Griezmann, the forward who last year won the World Cup with France and finished third in the Ballon d’Or vote for world’s best player.

Simeone has constantly talked about Griezmann’s importance for Atletico, saying he is the player who sets the tone for the team in attack. He is among the few indisputable starters, having scored more than 130 goals in five seasons at the club.

Simeone appeared to be caught by surprise by Griezmann’s decision, saying a few days ago he didn’t fear losing the player in the upcoming transfer window.

“Simeone is disappointed, like everybody else,” Atletico president Enrique Cerezo told Radio Marca. “But (Griezmann) had made up his mind and there was no way to convince him otherwise.”

Griezmann had a contract with Atletico until 2023 with a reported buyout clause of 200 million euros ($224 million), but the clause will be automatically reduced to about 120 million euros ($134 million) this offseason. Griezmann did not say where he will be next season, but Atletico rival Barcelona was reportedly among the front-runners to sign the Frenchman.

Atletico’s attacking chores will fall on the recently signed Alvaro Morata and the veteran Diego Costa, who endured a season marred by injuries and lackluster performances. Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Nikola Kalinic are the other options for Simeone up front, with Angel Correa and Saul Niguez remaining as his attacking midfielders.

The defense is where Atletico has thrived over the years, but this time the changes will be significant, especially in the absence of Godin, who came to the team before Simeone arrived at the end of 2011. The 33-year-old Uruguayan defender, who is expected to join Inter Milan, has played 388 matches in nine seasons for Atletico, helping the club win the Spanish league, two Europa Leagues, three UEFA Super Cups, a Spanish Super Cup, and a Copa del Rey.

Hernandez is on his way to Bayern Munich next season, while both fullbacks, Torres and Filipe Luis, are not expected to renew their contracts. Simeone faces revamping nearly the entire defense. Jose Gimenez will likely remain as a central defender along with youngster Francisco Montero, while Santiago Arias will take over the right back position.

The midfield may not escape unscathed either, as there are rumors about offers from top clubs for young midfielder Rodrigo “Rodri” Hernandez, who arrived this season and immediately became a regular starter. Staying in the team will be Thomas Lemar, Partey Thomas and Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion, who should gain a greater role within the squad as a veteran, along with goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

The entire team, including Griezmann, on Thursday practiced for Atletico’s final game of the season at Levante on Sunday in the Spanish league. Atletico has pride to play for as it has already secured a second straight runner-up finish in the league.

The final whistle will mean time to rest for most, but for Simeone, the work will be just starting.

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Godin confirms Atletico Madrid departure this summer

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Diego Godin has officially confirmed that he will leave Atletico Madrid this summer after nine seasons at the club, and Sunday’s La Liga match against Sevilla will be his last home match.

The 33-year-old defender will see his contract expire at the end of the season, and confirmed in a special press conference that the two sides could not come to an agreement on an extension.

“I’m more nervous than for any game, it’s the truth,” Godin said in an emotional open to his press conference, fighting back tears. “These are going to be my last days at Atletico Madrid.”

While he was mum on the details of the contract dispute, Godin had nothing but wonderful things to say of his time in the Spanish capital. “As a kid I dreamed of playing football, playing for Uruguay, playing in Europe, be a big player, but never thought I’d be at a stadium like this with the people cheering your name. There is nothing nicer than that.”

Godin refused to be drawn in on the details of the disagreement between the two parties other than confirming there was a failure to come to an agreement. “To be simple, I am captain of the team, have been here many years,” Godin said. “We have not reached an agreement to continue, so my stage here is over, the nicest of my career and my life.” There is speculation that at his age, the club did not want to commit to a two-year contract, and he received another offer from elsewhere that was more attractive.

Atletico Madrid is in a state of serious flux this summer. Longtime players Felipe Luis and Juanfran are also out of contract and their future has not been decided yet. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak is the subject of rumors mainly in the Premier League with a number of top English teams looking for a stellar goalkeeper in his prime. Manager Diego Simeone has received interest from across Europe for a number of years, and it’s possible this summer he decides for a new challenge.

Atleti takes 2-0 lead over Juve in Champions League (video)

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  • Morata sees goal disallowed via VAR
  • Gimenez, Godin score early
  • Atleti takes two goals away for 2nd leg

The defenders got it done, with a little help from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin scored second half goals, the latter putting his home after a Ronaldo deflection, as Atletico Madrid beat Juventus 2-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match on Wednesday at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atleti had an opening goal ruled out before Gimenez pushed home.

The second leg is March 12 in Turin.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

If you were betting on two defenses to conspire against the score line, this was it; Juve and Atleti allowed a combined 10 goals in 12 group stage matches.

Most of the prime chances resulted in user error, as typified by Diego Costa early in the second half. That said, Wojciech Szczesny made a finger tip save on Antonie Griezmann which was quite superb.

And when Atleti looked to have collected its lead through Alvaro Morata, the former Juve player saw his goal overturned through VAR.

Morata headed home, but the camera caught his shove on Giorgio Chiellini, initially unspotted by the referees.

Gimenez then made one count.

Morata won a header that hit Mario Mandzukic and fell into the path of Gimenez for a deserved goal.

Federico Bernardeschi had a solid bid to restore the deadlock, but Jan Oblak made a pretty save to keep it 1-0.

And Godin mopped up a shot that deflected off Ronaldo to double the hosts advantage after one leg.

Suarez rejects Griezmann’s love of Uruguay

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Luis Suarez wasn’t in the mood to celebrate Antoine Griezmann’s self-control following France’s defeat of Suarez’s Uruguay in Friday’s World Cup quarterfinal.

France held a 1-0 lead, with Griezmann assisting on the opener, when his knuckling shot was fumbled into the Uruguay goal by keeper Fernando Muslera.

[ MORE: Ream signs new Fulham deal ]

The nature of the goal, plus a healthy love for Uruguay, played a role on Griezmann’s muted celebration. For a player known for celebrating his opponents’ “taking an L,” it was notable.

“When I started, someone from Uruguay taught me the good and bad of football,” he said. “I love Uruguayan culture and Uruguayans. I have respect for Uruguay and it was normal not to celebrate my goals.”

But Suarez didn’t have it in his mind to give Griezmann much credit, even though the French attacker’s close relationship with club teammates Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez is well documented (Godin is the Godfather of Griezmann’s child).

And Griezmann also credits former Real Sociedad teammate Carlos Bueno, a Uruguayan, with helping his career in a big way.

Suarez doesn’t really care about all that.

“He’s not Uruguayan, he’s French and he scored a goal. He doesn’t know what we have to do to succeed in football. He will have his customs and his Uruguayan way of speaking, but we feel differently.”

Easy, Luis. We realize you just lost to the man and have a healthy club rivalry between you club Barcelona and Griezmann’s Atletico Madrid, but people live unique lives.

Transfer rumor roundup: Ings on the move; Godin to Man United

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Danny Ings looks set to leave Liverpool this summer with multiple outlets reporting he has agreed with Jurgen Klopp to move on to find regular action.

Ings, 25, has been hit with two major knee injuries during his three seasons at Liverpool and battled back to make 14 appearances last season off the bench for the Anfield club.

However, it doesn’t appear that regular minutes will be upcoming for Ings with Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Dominic Solanke ahead of him in the pecking order.

Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Inter Milan are all said to be interested in signing the England international and many more clubs will be sniffing around Ings as he’s been linked with Burnley, Newcastle and West Ham in the past.

He is a poacher in the box, works the channels superbly and is hungry to regain the form which saw him score 11 PL goals in 2014-15 for Burnley. A sharp Danny Ings is a danger to any defense in the Premier League.


Diego Godin, 32, has been linked with a move to Manchester United.

Uruguay’s captain has been a monster so far for La Celeste at the World Cup, as the Atletico Madrid center back has led them to three victories in the group stage to set up a last 16 clash with Portugal.

Per a report from Spanish outlet AS, Godin could be available for just $23.8 million this summer as he has just one year left on his current deal at Atleti. Although contract talks are expected with Atleti, the Uruguayan is said to be contemplating a move with both United and Juventus interested.

Jose Mourinho wants to add extra steel to his defense and with United already signing Fred and Diogo Dalot this summer, the Red Devils aren’t messing around when it comes to rebuilding their squad.

Godin’s no-nonsense style of defending will certainly slot in with Mourinho’s love for combative play and you can see him being one of his generals at Old Trafford.