Believe The Hype: Joao Felix Stepping Out Of Griezmann's Atletico Shadow - 9jaflaver

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Believe The Hype: Joao Felix Stepping Out Of Griezmann’s Atletico Shadow

The Portugal international has been the best player in La Liga so far this season as the Rojiblancos prepare to host Barcelona on Saturday 

The bad news this week for Atletico Madrid came via Luis Suarez’s positive coronavirus test,preventing the Uruguayan from tearing strips out of former side Barcelona on Saturday.

The good news? They currently boast the most exciting player in La Liga.

Eyebrows were raised when Atletico lavished €126 million (£113m/$142m) on Joao Felix in July 2019, making the teenage forward the fifth-most expensive player in football history.

Then 19, it was clear he had a big future ahead of him, but the fee was astonishing for a player who had only made 26 league appearances in Benfica’s first team.

Felix had big shoes to fill, expected to pick up the goalscoring slack left by Antoine Griezmann’s departure to Barcelona.

And after a long period of struggle, with some even tarnishing him with the dreaded F-word – flop – he has exploded this season.

Felix has five goals and two assists in seven Liga matches thus far, nearly equalling his strike tally from last season. He has added a further two goals in three Champions League outings as well as three goals for Portugal.

Expectation proved a weight on his shoulders last year as he managed to find the net on just six occasions in the top flight, offering glimmers of his ability but not much more in his first campaign.

Having raced onto the scene at the start of the season with good displays, he found it hard to establish himself as a forward, with Diego Simeone shunting him out to the right flank at times.

The Portuguese’s exciting, skilful and sometimes risky play did not chime with his Argentine coach’s defensive-minded nature, and some began to wonder if he would end up being another failed forward at the Wanda Metropolitano.

That position has consistently been a thorn in Simeone’ side, with Jackson Martinez, Mario Mandzukic, Luciano Vietto, Fernando Torres, Kevin Gameiro and Alvaro Morata, among others, failing to varying extents. 

Simeone, however, has changed tack this season and seems more willing to allow his players creative freedom, which suits Felix down to the ground.

Atleti put six past Granada, four past Cadiz and three past both Red Bull Salzburg and Osasuna. Gone are the days of 1-0 to Atletico.

If they do win the title this season, for the first time since 2014, it will be based on goals and grit, rather than a double helping of the latter.

“I’m here to play Cholo’s football and I do whatever he asks me to do,” Felix told Marca in August, before Simeone’s shift towards a more attacking style.

“If I can do what Griezmann has done (at Atletico), I’ll be very happy because he made history at this club and has done very well. He grew a lot with Cholo and if I do the same then good for me.”

Now while Griezmann flounders in front of goal at Camp Nou, bereft of confidence and on the verge of tears after missing a penalty against Real Betis, Felix has hit his stride and makes for compulsive watching; not something easily said about Atletico in the past.

The Rojiblancos rejected the chance to re-sign Griezmann per a report in Marca, and with Felix in red-hot form, it is easy to say they made the right call.

Felix, Marcos Llorente and Suarez, when not quarantined because of the coronavirus, make up a compelling attacking trident, each player with a different skill-set.

“If he continues to show the commitment, speed, and decision making he did today then he will continue to grow,” said Simeone after Felix hit a brace in the 3-2 win over Salzburg in October.

“Hopefully we can help him, because with a great Joao Felix the team will be more competitive. It was possibly his most complete performance due to the importance of the game, but he has put in many good ones.”

Even as Atletico were thrashed 4-0 by Bayern Munich in their Champions League opener this season, Felix played well, having a brilliant goal disallowed because Suarez was offside.

When Felix is at his best, it is hard to stop him and Atletico. He won a penalty, missed by Saul Niguez, in the 6-1 destruction of Granada, before sending in a succulent cross for Llorente to score and netting himself.

He then bagged a brace against Osasuna, then another against Cadiz and set up Suarez with a fine through ball, giving the ex-Liverpool man the ammunition he needs to keep firing at 33 having looked every bit his age without a Felix-esque figure alongside him last season.

Felix thus far has been the best player in Spain, in part helped by Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi’s performances falling below his outrageously-high standards.

With neither the Catalans nor Real Madridconvincing, Atletico have a greater chance of winning the title than at any point in the previous half-decade, and currently sit three points off the top of the table in third with two games in hand on the sides above them.

To reach the summit they need Felix to maintain his hot streak and prove he has stardust by the bucketful, instead of just an occasional sprinkle.

As good as he has been in 2020-21, Felix still needs to put on a masterclass in a big game to truly demonstrate that he has arrived.

Barca’s visit to the Metropolitano offers the perfect opportunity.

source:- fcnaija

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