Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone said the numerous offseason changes “hasn’t been easy” for the La Liga side but looks forward to working with club’s new additions.
The club saw prominent players such as Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Diego Godin (Inter), and Filipe Luis (Flamengo) exit but signed Mexico international Hector Herrera from Porto and Portuguese youngster Joao Felix from Benfica for a club record $133 million.
“It hasn’t been easy obviously with so many changes…. the club is working toward what we need to do, to get the type of players that were needed for this new project,” Simeone said in an exclusive interview with ESPN. “These are new players coming in, they are integrating very well. Joao, like all the other young players, is working his way in the best way possible and can hopefully can improve and develop in the future.”
The spotlight has specifically been bright on Felix, who has been dubbed by the Portuguese media as the “new Cristiano Ronaldo,” but Simeone said he doesn’t want to put that type of pressure on the 19-year-old.
“The reality is that he has a good game to observe, for me I’ve enjoyed watching him since he arrived, his vision, has good control going forward, which speaks well for his age and how he plays, and how he reads the game. We are going to add situations to help him grow and become a better and stronger player in the way everyone thinks he will.”
Simeone added that Herrera’s versatility can bolster the side’s midfield this season.
“He can play well in in either a [4-4-2 or 4-3-3] formation. He played either formation at his former team. … He seems to fit into our system, always with the possibility to break through going forward,” Simeone said of Herrera. “His ability and experience to get into the area will serve him well.
“There is a good competition in the midfield. It will require a lot of attention and he’ll need to understand what are the team’s needs, and the faster he does that the better he will be.”
Atletico will play the MLS All-Stars in Orlando on Wednesday as their final match of their U.S. preseason tour. The Spanish side are coming off a shock 7-3 win over city rivals Real Madrid last week at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Simeone said that, despite it being a friendly, his squad made plenty of mistakes in the first Madrid derby to played outside of Spain.
“We made lots of errors, to give up three goals, that’s a lot in a game. But we did a lot of good things. In the [previous friendly match] against Chivas, we didn’t do enough and we had difficulties. In the game against Real, we took responsibility and we executed better. That game was a reflection of how we prepared.”