Atlético Madrid's five striking targets for Liverpool and LaLiga
Diego Simeone knows that the early part of 2020 brings tough tests both in LaLiga and the Champìons League, so needs to find a goalscorer.
With the winter transfer market upon us, Atlético Madrid is one club that knows what is needed. Diego Simeone has always run a tight ship, with the last line of defence in Jan Oblak there to cover when his protective lines are breached, but at the other end of the pitch key questions have been asked about the lack of goals.
Atlético need goals for LaLiga and Liverpool
Simeone's side currently sit fourth in LaLiga Santander, seven points behind top dogs Barcelona and with the likes of Real Sociedad, Getafe, Athletic and Valencia breathing down their neck. Possibly unsurprisingly, they have the best defensive record of the league after 18 games but are trailing most of the teams around them on goals scored. The rojiblancos have found the net just 20 times so far, a massive 27 behind Barça, 13 fewer than Real Madrid and, more worryingly, 12 fewer than La Real who are in fifth place. Only Athletic (19) have a lower value in the goals column of the top 13 sides of the league. This needs to be rectified if they are to pose any threat to the title chasers and progress to the Champions League quarter-finals as they face runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool in a double-header.
The solution appeared to be Edinson Cavani but the Uruguayan doesn't look like he wants to press the PSG escape button just yet - the summer looking more likely - with an agreement between the clubs reportedly agreed. Other options, therefore, are being considered.
Bakambu: eager to return to Spain
On Sunday, Spanish programme Deportes Cuatro revealed that Cédric Bakambu could be a potential reinforcement for Atlético up top. The interest in the Congolese player is not new to the rojiblancos, who already tried to make the move happen in 2016 when he emerged at Villarreal. The asking price was deemed too high and so he ended up leaving in 2018 for China but now, two years later, the player's holding clause has expired and he is keen for a return to Spain. Atlético would be a good option for him, and with a record of 47 goals in 105 games for Villarreal, as well as 39 in 54 with Beijing Gouan, he could prove a handy addition to the likes of Morata and Costa.
Piatek: things haven't worked out in Milan
Polish striker Krzysztof Piątek exploded onto the scene last season at Genoa (13 goals in 19 games) and made the move to AC Milan in January - with Real Madrid also linked with him - where he started well. Things now have gone somewhat stagnant and, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrives to raise the competition for striking positions, an out may be his best course of action. Although getting on the scoresheet only four times in 17 matches this campaign, the 24-year old could refind his form at Atleti and would not hit them hard in the pocket. Whether they can make this happen in January, however, is another thing.
Alcácer: Haaland closes the door
The 26-year-old Spanish forward Paco Alcácer has seen his status at Borussia Dortmund slide following what had been an unbelievable scoring start to the season. With seven goals in his first six games, eyebrows back in Barcelona were certainly raised. His role at the Bundesliga club has changed since then, though, and with the signing of Norwegian sensation Erling Haaland, his chances of getting much action has been reduced significantly. A return to Spain is considered a positive option by Alcácer and his club appears to be open to this too given their other attacking players. Atlético have already made contact to see if a move can happen in January.
In his first year in Germany he bagged 19 goals in 32 games, which convinced Dortmund to exercise the purchase option they had agreed as part of the loan deal with Barça. In his last nine games, however, he has failed to make a mark and this poor run threatens his presence at the summer European Championships for Spain. Language would not be a barrier to his move to Atleti and his familiarity with LaLiga also suggests he could be a good fit.
Mertens: effective although not a pure '9'
The Belgian is not a typical number nine but is a player that brings goals, as he did with his 113 in 285 games for Napoli. He was already targeted as a replacement for Antoine Griezmann when that transfer was confirmed and it is notable that his contract with the Serie A club expires in June 2020. He is reported to be determined to take on a new challenge after seven seasons in Naples although club president, De Laurentiis, will look to get as much for the player as possible. That said, knowing he can leave for free at the end of the season means a very reasonable figure could be agreed in this window. At 32 he is not a long-term solution, but could help with the immediate run-in.
Cutrone: a substitute for Raúl Jiménez
At 21, Patrick Cutrone is a signing for the present and the future. The Italian striker, who arrived at Wolverhampton Wanderers just six months ago, is not getting too many chances in the Premier League and may see a chance to prove himself in the first team elsewhere as an attractive proposition. Former rojiblanco striker, Raúl Jiménez, is first choice at Molineux meaning Cutrone has only started nine games, although his three goals and four assists across 860 minutes is not to be ignored. The forward left AC Milan in exchange for 18 million euros following an impressive 2017-18 season, scoring 18 goals, and a more discreet 2018-19 with just nine. He is a classic number nine, moves well in the attacking third, and is useful in the air. It may be that a loan deal is the most likely if it is to happen in January but Wolves have plenty of ambition too.