The future of João Félix with Atletico Madrid looks set to be the subject of much speculation this winter. The Portuguese is widely believed to be unsettled in the Spanish capital and a post-World Cup transfer in the January window has emerged as a growing possibility for the ex-Benfica man.
Félix has found form of late, albeit largely as a substitute under manager Diego Simeone, with whom his relationship has rarely appeared easy. The story took another twist on Friday when the Argentine publicly stated a desire to keep Félix at the Wanda Metropolitano, despite rumoured interest from Paris Saint-Germain.
The current season got off to a promising start for Félix with a hat-trick of assists in Atletico’s opening-day win at Getafe, but a struggle to find the net soon saw the 23-year-old fall out of favour under Simeone. Frustration with his reduced role in the team appeared to boil over when Félix demonstrated disinterest during Atletico’s last-gasp penalty miss against Bayer Leverkusen last month.
A few days later, Cadena SER reported that Atletico had decided to put Félix on the transfer list. The story was strengthened the following afternoon when Simeone appeared to throw a barb at the Portuguese during an interview with DirectTV. “I have young players who have played a bit and think they are Maradona,” Simeone said. “When I don’t play them, there’s total frustration and when they enter, that frustration stays in their brains and prevents them from showing their best version.”
Paris Saint-Germain are believed to have expressed an interest in ending Félix’s time at Atletico, and the French side made contact with the player’s agent to discuss terms according to Relevo. Now, speaking ahead of this weekend’s Copa del Rey action, Simeone again commented on the Portuguese, who was included in Fernando Santos’ squad for the World Cup.
“He is one of the players who has scored the most goals among the forwards we have, in addition to the fact that he recently scored three,” Simeone said of Félix. “He can score goals. I hope he can stay with us, that he can perform at the level he has shown us on many occasions and that he continues to reinforce this. He is a player who can score and we need him.”
Whether Simeone’s comments are sincere or merely part of Atletico’s negotiation tactics remains to be seen. What appears certain, however, is that Félix’s future will remain one of the most keenly-discussed topics during the winter market.
By Sean Gillen