Lighting up Manchester with a scintillating performance on Monday night reminded all at the Vicente Calderon what they have to be prepared not to witness this season. Kun Aguero and his new Manchester City teammates can bask in their cash spewed paradise (until United once again come to town and teach them a lesson) following a routine 4-0 demolition of newly promoted Swansea City while Los Rojiblancos stare into a rather different oblique subsequent to the sale of their star men as former keeper David De Gea also settles into life in the same city.
Atleti’s golden boys have been snared yet again; similar to a previously prolific Fernando Torres forced to depart for Liverpool back in 2007. Four years on, Torres’ replacement has too been shipped overseas to the illustrious Premier League for a fee which goes some way towards stabilising the finances of a club continually bullied down into depression by neighbours Real.
But how crucial are the losses of Aguero and De Gea though?
De Gea is an easy one; Sergio Asenjo has enough ability to secure the number one jersey for many years to come if he can cut the costly mistakes which fetter his game. He’s 22 and returning from a serious injury but once fit should challenge 21 year old Joel for the number one spot.
With two hungry, young goalkeepers in the ranks, Atletico need no replacement but will require them both to step up quickly as they have substantial boots to fill.
However, Atletico will have to find a suitable alternative for a hard-working enigma with the brains of Berbatov and a striking instinct similar to Romario swiftly as Aguero sauntered off to Manchester with Mancini.
Plus, rather more worryingly so, they now have nobody yet to rely upon when Forlan fires a blank.
The Uruguayan struggled last season badly, we all know that. But whether or not it was due to the persistent injuries he accumulated or the suggested rift within the camp is the query we all yearn to discover even though manager Quique Flores has departed. Was there really an agreement not to pass to the ‘blond’ guy?
Of course, if you believe every story you read in the press then you’re too naive but as Atletico whitewashed frantically over the tales of discontent the underlying feeling was that his time in Madrid may be up.
Forlorn Forlan, a shadow of the man who won the Golden Boot twice in previous seasons and brought the Europa League trophy back from Germany with an incredible solo performance in which he grabbed a brace in the final, now appears to be showing similar form to his unsuccessful beginnings at Manchester United, scoring just 8 league goals last season.
Returning triumphant from the Copa America where, although best remembered for another double in the final, they remained his sole strikes in a poor tournament where partner Luis Suarez stole the majority of the headlines; a far cry from just one year ago when Forlan nicked the Golden Ball for best player of the World Cup in South Africa.
Nevertheless, should Forlan return to Madrid (speculation on Wednesday suggests Inter Milan have shown interest), fatigue will no doubt be a predicament for the 32 year old but at least he can start afresh under new manager Gregorio Manzano.
The ex-Mallorca boss arrives following the late dismissal of Flores last season with a complex task of securing European success as well as qualification for the subsequent season minus Aguero, De Gea and perhaps Forlan.
Given a sizeable chunk of the €66million seized from the sales of the youngsters, Manzano has begun Atleti’s recovery from a painful summer by snatching Arda Turan, Silvio and Gabi for a combined €26million.
The focus will be on how well the new boys endear themselves to the club and gel with current stars including Fran Merida and Jose Antonio Reyes. The task is much greater than in previous seasons, Manzano is well aware of that, but the goal is surely to remain consistent in the league; although a cup run would be a huge bonus and may be the sole reason Manzano keeps his job come May. A defeat of arch rivals Real for the first time in 11 years would too be an immense scalp!
Threats to their position will come from the regular contenders (Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal) plus a revitalised Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao and moneybags Malaga.
An ever increasing gulf between the top two is extending to the dismay of Los Rojiblancos, so much so that recently a good season is considered one only when Real succumb to Barcelona in the title race!
A cup run is more likely but to remain in contention for European qualification is the goal and in a couple of years when a fresh crop of worthy players progress Atleti can begin to dream of Champions League football once more.