Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone has said he is responsible for the club’s poor start to the season, while also refusing to confirm that star forward Joao Felix wants to leave the club.
Atletico — who return to action on Thursday against Elche — are fifth in LaLiga and crashed out of the Champions League, finishing bottom of their group to miss out on Europa League football.
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That financial blow saw the club allow forward Matheus Cunha to join Wolves, while Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin said earlier this month that Felix could depart if the right offer arrived.
“We had four players in the World Cup final [Antoine Griezmann, Rodrigo de Paul, Nahuel Molina and Angel Correa] and three of them played a lot,” Simeone said in a news conference on Wednesday when questioned on his squad planning. “We have a good squad. Maybe who isn’t doing what they should is the coach.
“There are good players here. Joao [Felix] was a sensation at the World Cup. [Yannick] Carrasco and Axel [Witsel] started for Belgium. We have important players. I have to improve so they can raise their level in LaLiga … we’re having a bad to average season and that isn’t about names.
“They’re the same as last season and similar to those who won the league … It’s the coach more than anything.”
Atletico went into the World Cup break with just one win in five league games, including draws with Rayo Vallecano and Espanyol and losses to Cadiz and Real Mallorca.
At the same time, Simeone’s management of Felix has been questioned, with Gil Marin citing “the relationship between [Joao] and the boss” as one of the reasons pointing towards a possible January transfer with Premier League clubs Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all linked.
When asked about working with Felix, Simeone said: “It’s a good working relationship. There can always be some issues between people, we can’t agree on everything, but I’ve always looked for the best for the club.
“What I care about is the team. He’s an important player, if we manage to get what we saw in the first games at the World Cup, he will be really important. He has the talent and the team needs his qualities.”
Simeone also refused to comment on reports that Atletico might be interested in Real Betis forward Borja Iglesias, if Felix were to leave.
“You know I don’t speak about players who aren’t here at the club,” he said. “I focus on getting the best out of what we have here.”