Dec 31, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT
The acquisition of former Bayern Munich and Napoli attacking midfielder José Sosa would look like a curious one for Atlético Madrid were it not for the presence of Diego Simeone, the man who helped build the Argentine into a player capable of making the jump to Europe. When Sosa and the Atleti coach were together at Estudiantes de la Plata in 2006, the duo led el Léon to the Argentine Primera División title. Now, with Sosa having played in Ukraine since 2011, coach and player are set to be reunited, with Atlético ready to take the 2008 gold medal winner on loan from Metalist Kharkiv through June.
“There is a verbal agreement that José Sosa will play at Atlético de Madrid for six months,” Sosa agent Ezequiel Manera said on Tuesday. “It is a loan transfer deal with an option to make the move permanent.”
If the deal works out, Atlético have a $13.7 million option to buy, a steep price for a player who has never quite been able to make the jump from Argentine league success to impact player in Europe’s bigger leagues. A talented attacker who is most comfortable playing behind a team’s forward(s), Sosa occasionally flashed his talents during two-plus seasons at Bayern (2007-09). Unable to win a consistent spot in the team, he was back with Estudiantes come Jan. 2010, having scored only two in 32 league games while in Munich.
The next season, Sosa was in Italy, but increased playing time in Naples failed to see the Argentine make an impact. After one season, 31 all-competition appearances, and one goal, Sosa was off to Kharkiv having completed just one quarter of his four-year deal.
That move has seen Sosa finally realize some of his potential. In 64 league games over two-plus seasons, the now 28-year-old has scored 17 times. As team captain in 2012-13, Sosa helped Metalist crack Ukraine’s top two places, knocking Dynamo Kyiv into third. This year, Metalist sit only five points back of league-leading Shakhtar Donetsk, Sosa’s team again showing Ukraine’s duopoly may have to expand.
Now Sosa’s set to help Atlético try to crack a different big two, and if Sosa were four years younger, the €10 million option for a player of his production would seem like a steal. Today, it’s a low-rick move for Atlético, one that could help Sosa secure a spot at Brazil 2014.
Acquiring depth to help support forwards Diego Costa and David Villa, Simeone gets a chance to see if a player so valuable at Estudiantes can bring his Ukrainian form to Madrid. If it doesn’t work — if Sosa replicates the form that saw him fail at Bayern and Napoli — Atlético can get out of their commitment, with Sosa left to return to a club he’s helped become a contender in Ukraine.
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