Why Leandro Damiao Would Not Be a Good Signing for Atletico Madrid

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IAugust 6, 2014

Brazil's Leandro Damiao celebrates his goal during their quarterfinal men's soccer match against Honduras at St James' Park in Newcastle, England, during the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
SCOTT HEPPELL/Associated Press

Two years ago, following the conclusion of the London 2012 Olympics, the very idea of Leandro Damiao joining Atletico Madrid would have been seen as a major coup for the Spanish club.

Yet, when he was linked with the Spanish champions earlier this summer as a possible replacement for Diego Costa, as per the Daily Express' David Wright, the reports were not greeted with similar enthusiasm.

It is not uncommon for players to lose form, but Damiao's sustained run of abject performances is now long enough to exceed the length of time he was "in form." Serious question marks, therefore, are understandable.

Over the course of a two-year spell with Internacional and his country, he had appeared the No. 9 that Brazil were so desperately seeking in the post-Ronaldo era. Tall and powerful with no shortage of technical ability, it had seemed a question of when rather than if he would reach the European club elite.

In fact, for a long time, it was a question of in which transfer window he would join Tottenham. Andre Villas-Boas was a reported admirer, while Spurs' links suggested they could steal a march on any rival.

With quoted prices in excess of 20 million, though, such a move never came to pass.

Spurs got lucky. In the two years that have now passed since London hosted the world's biggest sporting event, Damiao has scored just nine goals in the Brazilian top flight and has not played in a continental competition since. Indeed, only 13 goals in 30 games at state championship level comes close to hiding his woeful loss of form.

What's worse for current club Santos is that they parted with approximately 12 million to secure his services less than a year ago, with the omnipresent Doyen Group (a third party ownership giant) helping fund the deal.

Given his Fernando Torres-like loss of form, the Paulista club will be lucky to emerge from the arrangement with anything other than a major loss.

Confidence can be an important and often undervalued factor in football, but nobody could have foreseen the change in Damiao's game over the past two seasons.

Where he was once key to linking play with Neymar and Oscar for his country, his first touch no longer answers his calls. He had been so ruthless in the penalty area off either foot, or even with his head, but his goal tally alone will tell you that is no longer the case.

Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Brazilian football is no stranger to seeing players' form rise and fall like the tides, but the dramatic nature of Damiao's fluctuations have verged on unprecedented given the time span. It has cost Internacional and now Santos (or their backers) considerable financial loss.

Atleti have suffered major losses to their squad this summer, with Jose Mourinho's Chelsea alone taking three of their side who started the Champions League final to west London.

However, for the most part, they have been wise in their recruitment of the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Mario Mandzukic and Angel Correa—players with the potential to star and rise in value.

With the signing of Mandzukic, Damiao is no longer a name on the table, but nor should he be at this stage. Atleti have lofty ambitions and cannot afford to take a gamble on a player who has failed to hit any sort of reasonable form for two years.

Quite how the striker goes about rescuing his career, it remains to be seen. For now, though, a move to the top of the European game would seem an increasingly distant and unlikely prospect.