The setting was a humble one, and the exercise was, as ever with pre-season friendlies, broadly about fitness. But there were a few things that would have warmed even manager Diego Simeone’s stony heart about Atletico Madrid’s 2-0 victory over Numancia on Saturday.
There were debuts for Sime Vrsaljko and Diogo Jota in front of the 1,500 fans at Burgo de Osma, while the 19-year-old winger Amath also got a start and veteran midfielder Tiago got 45 minutes under his belt as he made his return from a broken leg.
Indeed, the most effort the 35-year-old probably had to put in all afternoon was when he lifted the ostentatious Jesus Gil y Gil Memorial Trophy at full-time following a victory that was achieved thanks to two names from Atletico’s past, with one of those having a real impact in the present.
An unfortunate own goal from former Atletico Madrid C and B team player Francisco Regalon—who haplessly headed in a Luciano Vietto cross just after half-time—effectively secured the seal on the victory, but that seal had been put in place via much more familiar means.
Just after the half-hour mark, Renato Augusto’s fine through ball fed Fernando Torres, and although the pressure was nonexistent and the defending atrocious, it was still heartening to see the Atletico legend escape the attention of his marker and confidently strike home.
It was a timely reminder that for all of Atletico’s seeming obsession with bringing in another forward this summer, they still have a vintage striker in their ranks.
While Antoine Griezmann continues to recover—both mentally and physically—from France’s ultimately fruitless Euro 2016 campaign and Vietto could be set for a transfer to Barcelona, per Lluis Miguelsanz in Sport, the names just keep on coming with regard to the identity of Atletico’s new forward.
There’s been a mooted, and widely reported, move to re-sign Diego Costa, Isaac Suarez of Marca among those suggesting as much. Other names to be linked include Edinson Cavani by Matt Maltby of MailOnline, Gonzalo Higuain by Sky Sports and Divock Origi by Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones.
A new face will almost certainly arrive, as both the fans and Simeone are seemingly demanding it, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that, in Torres, Atletico have an almost perfect backup.
That didn’t look to be the case for a lot of last season, mind, but since the turn of the year—and perhaps emboldened by the thought he would never again pull on the shirt of his boyhood idols—Torres has been excellent.
Whoever arrives will do so safe in the knowledge he will be the No. 1 pick to start alongside Griezmann—although Jackson Martinez probably thought the same last summer. And in Torres, they’ll have a faithful deputy, one who could probably teach them a thing or two about their art.
Simeone gambled somewhat by letting Martinez go to China in February without effectively replacing him, but he was always forced into that given the Colombian’s poor form, the amount of money being offered for him and the quality he had available elsewhere.
Since the Colombian's departure, there has been a space in the squad waiting to be filled, and that will only grow wider should Vietto end up departing too.
But in Torres, Simeone has the best placeholder he could possibly have.
At another year older and another year slower, the forward—who will turn 33 during the 2016/17 season—won’t expect to play in the majority of Atletico’s matches across La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, but what he can bring to all of the competitions will be invaluable.
In this renaissance of a career that has, lest we forget, seen him win pretty much everything the game has to offer, he isn’t likely to get another second chance at the club that means so much to him. He’s just happy to still have this one.
He's not likely to rock the boat, demand to play or look to take the limelight off whomever ends up arriving in Madrid this summer.
He’ll simply turn up and do a job for the club he loves, just as he did against Numancia.