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New Tiago and Saul Contracts Mean Atletico Madrid Can Build Instead of Rebuild

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2016

Atletico Madrid's Argentinian coach Diego Simeone (R) and midfielder Saul Niguez addresse a press conference on the eve of the UEFA Champions League first-leg, round of 16 football match Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs Club Atletico de Madrid in Leverkusen, western Germany on Febriary 24, 2015.    AFP PHOTO /  PATRIK STOLLARZ        (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

We constantly reinvent ourselves, year after year, said Atletico Madrid captain Gabi at the start of the present campaign, per Marca.

His statement was part pride that the team continued to challenge and part acknowledgement that Atleti frequently have to sell their biggest stars to other teams, perceived bigger sides with greater chances of success.

But just maybe, this summer, that finally stops.

Veteran midfielder Tiago has penned a one-year extension with the club, having successfully returned from injury, and key starter Saul Niguez has also finally signed his new contract—a stay until 2021 for one of La Liga's best midfielders this season.

Saul was one of the players Atleti had to put most effort into keeping hold of this year. By doing so, they've ensured they can simply add to what they already have in place rather than worrying about replacing stars this summer.

Midfield: Perfectly Aligned?

Atletico's midfield is, all things considered, about as good as it can be.

They have a blend of characteristics on a technical level: Gabi and Augusto Fernandez are defensive shields, Koke is a workhorse with great creativity, Tiago has plenty of both and Saul has a lot of both.

There is positional versatility there with the homegrown duo—Gabi and Kokeand there are younger talents attempting to emerge onto the first-team scene, with Thomas Partey and Matias Kranevitter.

Whether playing with a four across the middle and incorporating a more offensive threat such as Yannick Carrasco or switching to a three and bulking up the line ahead of the defence, it's arguable Atletico—unlikely to splash out or attract someone of the calibre of Paul Pogba, Marco Verratti or Arturo Vidal—cannot improve on their core. Simply retaining Saul was the best they could have done in preparation for next season.

Back 5, Set in Stone

In defence, it's a similar story. Jan Oblak, Juanfran, Diego Godin, Jose Gimenez and Filipe Luis will, barring unexpected developments, continue as the first-choice quintet.

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 27:  Jose Maria Gimenez (#24) and Diego Godin of Club Atletico de Madrid leave the pitch dejected after losing 3-2 to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey Quarter Final 2nd Leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Celta Vigo at Vice
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Atleti could certainly look for younger options at full-back, whether that's with Javi Manquillo's return from loan or investing in a long-term replacement for Filipe on the left, but at ages 30 (Godin and Luis) and 31 (Juanfran), they should still have at least another season of playing together without any problems.

There is little danger of any of the five moving on unless Gimenez is tempted away.

Add to the Attack

It won't be a surprise to anybody to hear Atletico must add to their front line.

A top centre-forward is a must, regardless of Fernando Torres' rejuvenation, and a wide goalscoring threat would be a fine addition too, providing competition for the likes of Carrasco and Angel Correa and potentially allowing for one of Oliver Torres and Luciano Vietto to leave on loan.

With an extra player to unlock defences to call upon this season, Atleti could well have taken the additional point or two they needed to win the title.

There were fine margins—and simply beating the two clubs battling the drop, Sporting Gijon and Levante, would have seen them crowned champions—but they don't possess the brute force that Barcelona and Real Madrid do.

Without the need to replenish other areas over summer, this should be the key focus for Atletico in summer.

Benefits of Continuity

Keep the team together and add one or two key supplements: It sounds a simple route to success, but how often does it actually happen?

Title-winning teams get cherry-picked for massive successes by other teams, club directors decide they want a shiny new toy and split up part of the side to make room and managers are lured away by new challenges and bigger budgets.

TOPSHOT - Atletico Madrid's Argentinian coach Diego Simeone celebrates qualifying for the final after the UEFA Champions League semi-final, second-leg football match between FC Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in Munich, southern Germany, on May 3, 2016.
CHRISTOF STACHE/Getty Images

Atletico have a rare opportunity this summer, when it seems no major players (or manager Diego Simeone) want to depart. Antoine Griezmann recently told Canal Plus he is close to renewing his deal (h/t Marca). Saul has done so. Oblak and Gimenez signed new contracts earlier in the season.

The team could have won the double this year, and they can still emerge as champions of Europe. They also have a wonderful opportunity to build on this success over summer. That could be especially important with a transfer ban set to commence at some point in the next year.

Atletico have constantly reinvented themselves, but this year, only marginal improvements might be required for a full-throttle tilt at silverware next season.