ᑕ❶ᑐ Joao Felix: Why Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid let Chelsea down
Joao Felix and Diego Pablo Simeone have two different ways of approaching the game, they also come from two generations that have very different approaches to life.
Félix, 23, is aware and convinced of his potential, wants this to be respected and wants the team to adapt to his strengths. Atletico Madrid manager Simeone believes only in getting what you value – work hard and the context will change for you. This is the way to grow.
Atletico thought paying Benfica €127 million (€113 million) three and a half years ago for the 19-year-old would be a bargain.
The Portuguese striker is the biggest investment in the history of the Spanish club – a wise investment after such a display of talent and someone who will help Atletico go far.
But things didn’t go according to plan. What happened?
- Felix joined Chelsea on loan from Atletico Madrid
- Chelsea news and fan views in one place
When everything starts to break
Simeone always thought prices would go against players – expectations would be too high for someone who has only played top-flight football for six months.
His agent Jorge Mendes and Atletico chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin have been warned that Argentine manager Simeone is not the right person to keep the promising footballer.
Simeone has a clear conscience – he uses Felix when players give him what the manager wants. Felix believes Simeone sends him to the bench whenever his form drops a bit.
In 134 games Felix was available for the team, in which he scored 33 goals, his biggest contribution being the first three months of Atlético’s season to become champions, in 2020-21. However since then things haven’t been smooth sailing and the last period that broke things up was last fall.
In mid-September, Atlético lost the Madrid derby at home. A league title has become impossible even at this early stage of the season. Simeone doesn’t appreciate the attitude of his players with and without the ball.
Felix stopped being a regular after starting seven of the first eight games of the season. Shortly after the match, Felix asked his agent and Gil Marin to leave in January.
In an interview with YouTuber Adri Contreras around that time, who was asked who he thought was the best manager, Felix replied, “Pass.”
Having failed to start against Sevilla or Club Brugge, and clearly showing his public displeasure with the situation, Simeone capitalized on the two goals scored by striker Angel Correa against Girona to say: “When Correa is disappointed, he shows it on the pitch. . »
In the second leg against Brugge, after warming up for half an hour and being asked twice to be ready to come on but ultimately taking no part in the match, Felix threw his bib to the ground. Shortly after, Simeone said: “While I am here, decisions are based on performance. Joao plays whenever he is in good condition. »
Felix was on the bench for the eighth game in a row in the crucial Champions League encounter against Bayer Leverkusen in which Atletico were knocked out.
At that time, the relationship between players and coaches had reached a nadir.
Why doesn’t Simeone trust Joao Felix?
When the Portugal international arrived, after fame as a second striker, Simeone planned his usual hurdles to inform him of all the obligations an Atlético player should have, most of the time without the ball.
The player, to his dismay, was used on the right wing and was often outside the opponent’s box. Gil Marin asked his manager to bring Félix closer to the box and the manager, a club member, did as he was advised. However, this move soured Simeone’s relationship with GM.
Felix has played the full 90 minutes just 24 times in his 134 games for Atletico (84 starts) and his stats are anything but world class.
In addition to his 33 goals, he has 16 assists. His scoring averages in La Liga and Europe are similar – 0.25 and 0.26 per game – and there is clearly room for improvement.
Looking beyond numbers, Simeone feels the player has repeatedly failed to have the right attitude, too often looking for personal gain and not sacrificing enough defensively. The boss doesn’t think the Portugal striker is as good as people think and the only superstar he has in the squad is Frenchman Antoine Griezmann.
This year started with the manager announcing that the team would be “Joao Felix and 10 others”, but Simeone didn’t get in his way. He knew now that he didn’t want her back.
How will the club react to all of this?
Gil Marin is trying in every possible way to rectify the situation so as not to have to choose between the coach and the player.
“He’s having a hard time adjusting,” he said a few months ago. “It’s up to Simeone to find his best version. »
However, in December, Gil opened the door to a sale when he confessed: “If there is a good offer, we have to consider it. The relationship between the manager and the players is not the best. I want him to stay but the players think differently. »
Nobody was prepared to pay the £100+ that Atletico wanted, so a loan was a real possibility. Gil Marin demands that Félix extend his contract by one year until 2027, wanting to be in control of his future.
Gil Marin says Simeone will leave the club whenever he makes up his mind. It would be a lie that the Argentinian asked to leave but the club would not be disappointed if he did and Luis Enrique is likely to be his replacement. Felix is also believed to shine under the former Barcelona and Spain manager.
The club believes that since winning the league in 2020-21 and despite achieving the target of playing in the Champions League every year for a decade, the team has not really lived up to its potential, especially in Europe.
Much depends on managerial decisions.
If next season the team is not in a major continental competition, they could expel Simeone for less than the 23 million euros per year (20.4 million euros) he earns.
But every time Gil Marin contemplates the possibility, he comes to the same conclusion – a legend like Simeone, despite most fans’ doubts, deserves to determine his own future.
Is Chelsea a good place for Joao Felix to shine?
The Portuguese had a good World Cup. After his display against Ghana, Simeone said he enjoyed his players’ performances, but added: “It’s a perfect short tournament for him, not many matches, where you see beauty and rhythm, and fall in love with a player like him”.
Felix felt like it was a dig, and it was. “Portugal’s way of playing is very different to Atletico,” he said in Doha.
Upon his return, he was not added to the squad in two Copa del Rey matches due to tonsillitis. Ultimately, Chelsea agreed to pay €11 million for the loan as well as paying his wages for the remainder of the season. The agreement does not include an option to buy clause.
It was a risky decision for Felix to join a team that was in a difficult situation. But Chelsea are the only top club who need a player like him and he can play regularly. Also, manager Graham Potter likes and uses players like him, although finding him the ideal position in the variety of systems he uses is not easy.
There are also doubts whether he will be able to adapt quickly enough to the high tempo of the Premier League.
One thing is in his favour, if you follow Simeone’s thinking – Chelsea are still alive in the Champions League, another ‘short’ competition.