Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said on Friday his players will dig deep in the face of adversity as they begin the new season shackled by a transfer ban and with key players missing.
Atletico will be without striker Kevin Gameiro and left back Filipe Luis for the opening game at newly promoted Girona. Thomas Partey and Diego Godin are suspended, deepening the deficiencies of a squad banned from registering new players.
The ban, imposed by FIFA for the illegal transfer of minors and upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in June, means Atletico cannot count on the services of their one new signing, Vitolo, who is spending the first five months on loan at Las Palmas before joining up with Simeone’s side in January.
The squad has been further weakened by midfielder Tiago retiring and Theo Hernandez leaving for Real Madrid, while the club has parted ways with Matias Kranevitter and Rafael Sante Borre.
Crucially, however, Antoine Griezmann, Saul Niguez and Koke have all been persuaded to stay, signing new long-term contracts, while Fernando Torres agreed a one year extension.
“The club has made a huge effort to keep its most important players and it’s clear that the players who have stayed have a huge sense of belonging here and that reflects well on the club,” Simeone told a news conference on Friday.
“Now we have to reflect that on the pitch. Some would see not being able to sign players as a weakness but we’ve taken it as a positive because we all know each other, we know how we want to play, and that boosts the essence and ideas of the team.”
Forward Luciano Vietto is reported to be on his way out to Italian side Sampdoria but has been named in the squad for the trip to Girona.
The Catalan side are gearing up for a first season in the top flight in their 87-year history and have signed experienced Liga players such as goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz from Athletic Bilbao and former Espanyol forward Christian Stuani from Middlesbrough in their bid for survival.
Girona have also brought in four players on loan from Manchester City, whose parent company, City Football Group, is reported to be close to purchasing a majority stake in the club.