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Do Chelsea have a buy option in João Félix’s loan deal?

The striker, who asked to leave Atlético, joins Chelsea on loan for the rest of the season, after renewing his contract with Atleti until 2027.

Do Chelsea have a buy option in João Félix’s loan deal?

João Félix’s adventure at Atlético Madrid is over - at least until the summer. The news was made official on Wednesday afternoon: the Portuguese forward will spend the remainder of the season at Chelsea. He joins Graham Potter’s side on loan but without a purchase option, despite Chelsea’s attempts to include one. The Blues will be responsible for the footballer’s salary and will pay a fee of around 8 million euros for the loan. The striker will return to Atleti in the summer and with a contract taking him to June 2027 - before leaving for London, he extended it by another year.

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João Félix bid Atlético goodbye with his last appearance for the club against Barça - at least for this season. The 23-year-old arrived at the Metropolitano in 2019, following Antoine Griezmann’s departure to Barça and as the most expensive signing in the club’s history (Atleti paid Benfica 127 million euros). Since then, he has played 131 games with the Rojiblancos - 84 appearances in the starting XI and 47 coming off the bench. He has enjoyed some brilliant moments and other, not so brilliant ones plus several injuries which slowed him down just when he looked as though he was about to really take off in the team. In total, he has contributed 34 goals and 16 assists. But his relationship with Simeone has never been easy and that, as far as the player was concerned, was holding him back.

Keen for a change of scenery

Because of all of those factors, João Félix let the club know that he wanted to leave in the current winter transfer window. Atleti CEO Gil Marín expressed his discontent with the situation, alluding directly to the complicated relationship between the player and the coach. “I would love for him to continue, but that’s not what he wants. The reasonable thing is to think that he will end up leaving,” Gil Marín said on 6 December, while João Félix was with Portugal at the World Cup.

On his return from Qatar, the Portuguese forward found himself once again in Simeone’s plans. He started the games against Elche and Barça but missed the Copa del Rey ties against Arenteiro and Oviedo due to fitness problems. Cholo made the move of playing him alongside Griezmann in attack and it appeared to pay off - he scored in the 2-0 win against Elche (his fifth goal of the season), but was far more discreet in the Barça game. However, despite his return to form, the disagreements with the coach have been key and João remained determined to leave.

Atlético finally agreed to open the exit door, but it was clear that they were not going to undersell their record signing. There was no way the club would entertain the idea of selling João Félix for less than 100 million euros - a significant amount for any club to meet and especially during the January window. However. there was some interest, but no concrete offers. Atlético paved the way for a loan deal, which includes financial compensation from the destination club, who also have to take care of the player’s salary.

Chelsea, the most determined

That deal was confirmed today. While Chelsea have long held an interest in the player, the operation was concluded swiftly. During the weekend there were informal contacts and on Monday the negotiations were officially confirmed. Chelsea got ahead of other suitors, because they need big name reinforcements. Graham Potter’s team has recently suffered two blows one after another, losing to City in the league then being eliminated from the FA Cup by Guardiola’s side. Potter’s side are tenth in the table and ten points behind the Champions League positions. United also made an attempt to sign João Félix, but their proposal was insufficient for Atleti.

The loan states that João Félix will return to Atlético when the season ends. Once that happens, the conversations will be reactivated as anything could happen between now and June. The Portuguese has a contract until 2027 (with the extension, the annual amortization has been partly reduced) and what happens in the summer will depend largely on Simeone’s continuity on the bench. The coach is under contract until 2024.

In the short term, Atleti need to act quickly. João Félix’s departure, together with that of Cunha means they need to bring in a striker - one who can contribute goals and compete for the position with Morata, Griezmann and Correa. The club has several options in mind (Ünal, Borja Iglesias, Thuram…) but will need to study their accounts as none of the options will be cheap. A new saga that will be resolved before the end of the month...