X

What the Signing of Nicolas Gaitan Means for Atletico Madrid Next Season

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2016

LISBON, PORTUGAL - MARCH 05: Benfica's midfielder Nicolas Gaitan during the match between Sporting CP and SL Benfica for the Portuguese Primeira Liga at Jose Alvalade Stadium on March 05, 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid look to have already nailed down their first big signing of the summer, with Marca reporting over the weekend that the Liga club had agreed a €25 million fee with Benfica to sign Nicolas Gaitan.

With Los Rojiblancos preparing for a UEFA Champions League final on Saturday, it has been plain to see this season that they already possess one of the best squads around Europe—but a couple of quality additions in attacking positions could make the difference between another title challenge next term and actually winning the league.

Gaitan certainly ticks the boxes that we identified Atleti needing in our recent look at how they could build on this season, so how will he affect the side in 2016-17 and what work still remains?

Competition

The first point to note is that as a 28-year-old, it's clear that Gaitan will be coming in as a near-guaranteed starter, a reference point for the attack already as rounded and ready as he is ever likely to be.

A wide threat, playing from the left of midfield for Benfica, the Argentina international will be expected to provide goals from the second line—something Atletico lacked this season too often—and add to their ability to dominate play more often.

Gaitan scored vs. Atleti in this season's Champions League
Gaitan scored vs. Atleti in this season's Champions LeagueGonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

This season it has been either Koke left side in a quartet or Yannick Carrasco, who has shown flashes of brilliance but spells of average play too, meaning Gaitan's addition will push Koke infield on a more regular basis. The Belgium international may find himself playing the role of impact substitute on a more regular basis unless he ups his end product.

Assuming there are no surprise departures, Atletico's midfield line could now already be complete ahead of next season.

Tactics

A 4-4-2 is Atletico's staple, but more and more frequently as the season progressed, Diego Simeone switched to 4-3-3 in-game or outright started with a five-man midfield. Gaitan—and the movement of Koke infield, as above—adds to the potential progression to a more regular 4-3-3 system.

Koke, Saul and Gabialong with Augusto Fernandezprovide the team with an immense core and a mix of technical abilities and physical traits.

It would be unusual to see more than one of them left out of any given match, and there's little doubt Koke and Saul as a central partnership ahead of another holding midfielder is an exciting prospect to look forward to.

Atletico Madrid's midfielder Saul Niguez is congratulated by Atletico Madrid's midfielder Koke (L) during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs Real Sociedad de Futbol at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on March 1, 2016. / AF
GERARD JULIEN/Getty Images

Add in Antoine Griezmann, who has attacked in a free role from the right and provides huge pace on the counter as well as his goalscoring form inside the penalty box, and Atleti have their ideal cast: Gaitan providing width, Griezmann able to join up as a second striker and the central three who can easily tilt across to make a four-man centre of the park when required.

Versatility mixed with tactical understanding is at the core of all Simeone's most important players.

Transfers

In terms of summer work, Atletico still require a big-name centre forward, following the failure of Jackson Martinez.

Fernando Torres will remain and Borja Baston could return from his loan spell with Eibar, but Luciano Vietto is on the verge of a move to Celta Vigo, according to AS.

Meanwhile, Atletico's transfer plans could be restricted by La Liga's ruling of three non-EU players per squad, currently occupied by Josema Gimenez and Angel Correa, with Gaitan as the third. 

Marca report, however, that plans are in place to get dual citizenship for both Gimenez and Gaitan before the end of the calendar year.

While €25 million on Gaitan wouldn't be close to Atletico's record signing, they won't expect to have too many outgoing players this summer, or at least not for significant fees.

That in turn could mean a lower overall outlay on new faces, but as long as they get the striker signing right, adding the goals and industry of Gaitan from the flank could be the extra push they'll need to fight for more silverware.