Which Clubs Have the Greatest Potential to Be Next Season's Atletico Madrid?
Atletico Madrid took the football world by storm this season, winning their first La Liga title in almost two decades and reaching the UEFA Champions League final, too.
That league success follows on the back of Copa del Rey and Europa League wins in the past couple of seasons, as Atleti made themselves a force in the game under Diego Simeone once more.
Looking around Europe, there are a few sides who could lay claim to having the potential to follow suit, specifically those that have challenged for the league title in their domestic league after a significant period of not having won it, while also making a name for themselves in continental competition.
It might not be that they have the capacity to go all the way to the final—Atleti had to be near perfect to accomplish that—but they could certainly make an impact in a way they have not managed in some time.
Here are five clubs which have the potential to be next season's success story, just as Atleti were this time.
Liverpool made huge strides in the Premier League this season and finished second place, coming close to ending their own long wait for a domestic league title.
With Champions League football back at the club and the money such a privilege brings, they'll be looking to invest and grow further, making winning the title next season a serious possibility.
In Europe, they'll find it difficult with a relatively inexperienced manager and the increased demands on star players, but their attack-minded football and hordes of goals in the front line mean they'll always have a chance, even against extremely good sides.
AS Roma likewise ended second in Serie A, improving beyond measure despite selling key figures last summer.
They have a big task to overthrow the dominant force of Juventus at the top of the table, but again, increased investment through Champions League qualification and a side with plenty of hunger—not to mention a talented boss—means they'll certainly be up for the challenge.
Italian clubs haven't fared too well in Europe of late, certainly not this season, but Roma will look to at least have a respectable showing in the group stages next term—depending on the draw, of course.
Schalke are perhaps the only German club in position to challenge the established top two of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.
To genuinely fight for top spot in the Bundesliga, they need three things: Bayern to be significantly poorer than they were this season, or at least not as focused domestically in favour of an all-out-assault on Europe; secondly, to keep hold of their key youngsters (Max Meyer, Julian Draxler, etc.); and finally, to become stronger defensively.
They already proved this season they can reach the latter stages in Europe, though were utterly undone by the eventual champions. Another season of improvement and Schalke can be a big side to watch.
Feyenoord will inevitably end up selling plenty of their star youngsters, but if they can convince them to stay for one more season, they have a great chance next season of winning their first Eredivisie title this century.
Their last title came in 1999, but they ended second this term, four points off top spot.
With a hugely promising defensive pair of Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij still drawing interest from potential buyers, as well as the excellent Jordy Clasie and midfielder Tonny Vilhena, Feyenoord have work to do to keep the side together.
If they do, add in the goals from Graziano Pelle and the ever-improving Jean-Paul Boetius, and the side could certainly do one better next season.
Europe might be another matter, but depending on the draw, even a couple of wins and a top-three finish in the group would represent great progress for Feyenoord.
Sporting Lisbon haven't had quite as long of a wait as Feyenoord since their last title, which came in 2002, but they have certainly been the quietest of the big three in Portugal over the last decade.
They enjoyed a great run of form toward the end of the 2013-14 campaign to vault themselves into second place, finishing seven points behind winners Benfica in the end, with the margin for error in the Liga Sagres always extremely small—three or four defeats in the season and that's likely it for your title chances.
Back in the Champions League next season, Sporting will hope to push on and show they can compete toward the last 16, though it will require additions to the attack, in particular, for them to manage it.