One to Watch: Atletico Madrid's Leo Baptistao, the 2nd-Best Leo in La Liga
A fortunate Atletico Madrid has never suffered performance issues with a fantastic forward leading the line with big goalscoring figures.
Over the years, Fernando Torres, Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero and Radamel Falcao have been spectacular successes at the Vicente Calderon in terms of busting the back of the net.
Unfortunately, keeping these prolific poachers at the club has been more of an issue for the Rojiblancos. As has stumbling across another player to bang in a few goals, if the main man up front is out of action or simply having a dodgy day. However, Atletico supporters feel confident that the search for that fantasy figure is over, thanks to the close-season arrival of Leo Baptistao.
Although the Brazilian forward moved the short distance from Rayo Vallecano to the Vicente Calderon at the end of the campaign just gone, the chatter on the move in Madrid was in the air from the turn of the year.
Atletico Madrid will be the third capital city club for the player whose transfer put €7 million into the very empty coffers of Rayo Vallecano. Baptistao first arrived in Spain under the stewardship of Getafe. However, a lack of residence for the team’s youngsters saw a move to Rayo’s youth ranks in 2009.
Unfortunately, the progress of the second-best Leo in La Liga was hampered by a broken collar bone suffered in July 2011, an injury that restricted the striker to appearances for Rayo’s youth team. A lack of bodies in the Madrid-based club’s attack last season saw a swift promotion for the Brazilian who had an exhilarating campaign with seven strikes, before yet another collarbone break in April.
What Baptistao will offer Atletico Madrid is the magical, the improvised and the ability to conjure something out of nothing with both feet.
While looking a little Peter Crouch-like in his gangliness, Baptistao is surprisingly strong and extremely well balanced. There is a great deal of flexibility too, with the Rojiblanco’s new signing able to play in all four positions across the front line.
While David Villa is set to be the true, anointed No. 9 for Atletico, the Brazilian will offer quite the competition for his compatriot, Diego Costa, in playing the role of assistant to one of La Liga’s most prolific poachers. The contrast in styles will offer so much to the attack at the Vicente Calderon club: Costa can be the perfect foil when a no-nonsense physical figure is required, and Baptistao can chip in when a bit of subtlety is required.
The Brazilian striker made remarkable progress last season and is set for even more rapid improvement under Diego Simeone and alongside Villa and Costa. The hope will then be that Baptistao does not see history repeating at Atletico, when joyful success inevitably leads to a regretful departure.
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