Atletico Madrid’s Singapore visit a good omen for 2019 La Liga glory
Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid made their grand entrance into Singapore back in May 2013, on the back of a media frenzy surrounding the future of star striker Radamel Falcao.
The Colombian forward wasted little time after Atletico departed Singapore and within weeks, became an AS Monaco player, followed by unsuccessful loan spells with Manchester United and Chelsea.
Fast forward to 2018 and Simeone will step out into the familiar surroundings of Changi Airport for the International Champions Cup (ICC) and be greeted by the ever-growing band of Atletico supporters.
The difference between the previous trip and the upcoming one is that the Argentine tactician will not need to furrow his eyebrows and be kept occupied wondering if his star player will be around in months to come.
While Falcao left for what was supposed to be greener pastures just days after Atletico made their appearance in Singapore – a move which in hindsight hasn’t quite work out – current Atletico star Antoine Griezmann has committed to the club, making a dramatic U-turn having almost followed his predecessor’s footsteps.
The Frenchman flirted with La Liga rivals Barcelona FC for the past few months but came out just before the World Cup in Russia to confirm that he will stay with Atletico instead of joining Lionel Messi at Camp Nou.
Griezmann’s decision to continue his Atletico journey is a huge boost for the Madrid-based club and together with the Diego Costa’s return to form, Simeone has an attacking partnership that is primed for success.
Coupled with Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid and a downbeat Messi returning to Barcelona after his World Cup exertions, the 2018/19 season could be Atletico’s best chance to add another league trophy to their silverware collection.
You can be sure the head honchos at Atletico are aware of this and will be demanding Simeone to prepare the team well in pre-season to ensure that title challenge does come to fruition.
So the ICC in Singapore will not just be another pre-season meet-and-greet in the Far East. It will be more of a good testing ground to fine-tune the machine before mounting a La Liga title assault.
Throw in the fact that Atletico will be up against a familiar rival in Arsenal, whom they swept aside with a 2-1 aggregate over two legs in the Europa Cup semifinal and this ICC tournament already sounds like a tantalizing affair.
And how can we forget the opportunity to see how Paris Saint-Germain stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar deal with Atletico’s Uruguayan hardman Diego Godin?
With all that said, Simeone will also take heart that the last time he stepped foot into the Lion City, he went back to Spain and won his first La Liga title in 2014.
So all signs are pointing towards a positive campaign and there will be no better way for Atletico to signal their title ambitions than to lift the 2018 International Challenge Cup in Singapore.