With Sergio Agüero already having started a new phase of his career at Manchester City and many a rumor hinting at an imminent exit for Diego Forlán, Atlético Madrid seems almost certain to boast a completely new-look front line this Liga season. But until Thursday night's news that Colombian Radamel Falcao had been signed from FC Porto, coach Gregorio Manzano, known to be an unusually mild-mannered man in the stormy world of Spanish soccer, had been heard insisting to Atlético managers: "I want a forward and I need him now!"
The arrival of Falcao, a penalty-area predator who racked up a commendable 73 goals in 88 games during his two-year spell in Portugal, helping Porto to a domestic league and Europa League double last season, should calm the former Mallorca and Sevilla coach's nerves.
But the deal to capture the 25-year-old Colombian turned out to be a complex and suspense-filled adventure. Porto and Falcao's agent, Jorge Mendes, imposed two conditions that a club source defines as "bitter pills, difficult to swallow," before Atlético could claim the player who had a 45-million-euro buy-out clause in his contract. In the end, Atlético paid 40 million euros for the player, plus seven million in possible add-ons.
The really unexpected part was the obligation to also sign Rubén Micael for five million euros. But the Portuguese midfielder will not be playing in red-and-white stripes, instead moving straight into a loan deal with Zaragoza, whose president, Agapito Iglesias, has a good relationship with Mendes. "He just doesn't interest us at all; we have the midfield covered," said one Atlético executive of the player. "When his name came up, several of us looked at each other and said 'But who is this Micael?'"
Meanwhile on Thursday night, Atlético won the home leg of its Europa League preliminary round 2-0 against Vitória Guimarães with two goals from Elías, the Brazilian midfielder who had been touted by the Madrid club as a possible swap as part of the Falcao deal. Sevilla lost 2-1 at Hannover 96 and Athletic Bilbao was held 0-0 at home by Turkey's Trabzonspor.