Ah, transfer rumors. They’re like dandelion seeds—fluffy and light and they blow away at the slightest breeze. But some, like the rumor about Chelsea looking to sign Atletico Madrid’s Koke, might give you pause to think.
Not because this particular rumor has the least bit of truth to it—let’s be clear about that up front. Every other week it’s Chelsea or Manchester United with their eye on the young Spaniard, and with good reason. But for reasons I’ll discuss below, Koke will not be leaving Atletico Madrid in the summer for Chelsea, or anyone else.
First, understand that 23-year-old Jorge Resurrección Merodio, who has already sported the captain’s armband a few times for Los Rojiblancos and who performs well for Spain on international duty, is naturally the target of big clubs. He is reliable, consistent, and wise beyond his years. While the Atleti ethos is the whole team and not one player, it’s easy to see why Koke stands out in a squad of solid players.
His performance for Spain has been impressive, too. Already a World Cup veteran and Olympian, he starts for La Roja consistently. He performed beautiful—as per usual—against Ukraine in the Euro 2016 qualifier last week—he was arguably the reason Spain won that match due to his assist to Alvaro Morata’s goal (1-0 FT).
Perhaps most important, he is on the young side of the midfield greatness seen in the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and Xabi Alonso in their prime. Spain needn’t worry about its midfield in the future.
At the club level, Koke is an integral part of the Atleti midfield—he plays widely, often on the left, but shining in the center. You get the sense watching him that he goes in to work hard and get the job done, patiently moving the ball and passing at perfectly timed moments. He is a demon at set-pieces and assists, and still manages to score on his own now and then.
The media loves to speculate that Atletico Madrid isn’t a big or shiny enough club for Koke, but in fact the opposite is true. Well known for his humility and loyalty to his roots, Koke is an Atleti youth product who grew up in the shadow of the Calderon, idolizing Fernando Torres.
“I grew up here and it’s an honour to have played so many matches in this shirt. But all I am thinking about it is playing more,” he said in January.
His humility and his work ethic fits him in perfectly with Diego Simeone’s era of management.
Simeone said ahead of Atleti’s UEFA Champions League last 16 second leg against Bayer Leverkusen in March, “From a football point of view, Koke is possibly one of the midfielders that reads the game best, especially because he can play different positions in the midfield. “With a 360-degree vision that is great always, he always thinks in ways that help us control the offense. When he plays his best, he allows us to have a more dynamic game, not because of his body’s speed, but because of his mental speed.”
How would he fair in the Premier League?
Of the Premier League clubs that Koke might consider someday, Chelsea certainly seems an excellent choice. They have the money and fight in Mourinho, and a squad chock full of fellow Spaniards and former teammates. And there’s a history of exchanging players between the two clubs—Diego Costa’s high-profile sale last summer, and the return of a loaned Thibaut Courtois to name but two examples.
Chelsea would relish Koke’s technical skill combined with his physicality. Chelsea are widely regarded to have a weak midfield, especially centrally, although this is up for debate among fans.
Koke’s easy handling of the physical aspects leads one to suppose he’d do just fine in the Premier League should he choose to go. Chelsea is a likely destination, although if Barcelona was not under its transfer ban, they would probably be first choice. The Catalan club approached the young Madridista last summer, but he turned them down.
“I’m happy because I want to be here, I’ve been here all my life and it was not time to go,” Koke said then. “The club is growing, we are growing as players — why I would go at the best time of Atletico Madrid?”
In January, ahead of his 200th club appearance for Atleti, he told Chinese news outlet Xinhua, “I see life in red and white. I’m happy here, the club is growing and I’m growing with it. I don’t see any time or place when I’d leave. I’m happy to make Atletico fans happy, and I’d like to stay here forever.
As we all know, players change. Koke is partly owned by a third party, who could eventually convince him to take a higher paycheck elsewhere.
At least one tabloid stated that since Atletico Madrid isn’t wining La Liga this year, it’s a good time for Koke to go. Another idea is that since Chelsea has the cash to splash and can pay Koke’s £42m buyout clause, then Koke arriving at Stamford Bridge in the summer is not only a given, but a serendipitous time at an age where he is full of promise, injury-free, and more likely to adapt quickly.
One of the more amusing tabloid statements was: “Atletico will try hard to hang on to Koke, but Chelsea would offer up to £44million to get the switch over the line.” These Premier League-view claims are always amusing.
Sorry, guys. It’s highly unlikely Koke will leave Atletico Madrid in the summer. He’s already signed a new contract, and isn’t led by money or glory.
Instead, keep your eye on him as he progresses through the next few years. He is a legend in the making.