When João Félix made his €126m move from Benfica to Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2019, the Portuguese international was considered to be a future Ballon d’Or winner. The forward is in his fourth season with the Spanish club, yet his development as an individual has staggered for a multitude of reasons. Now that Félix is 22-years-old, it may be time for him to leave Atlético Madrid if his situation at club level does not improve following the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Félix played an intricate part of a Benfica team that won the Primeira Liga during the 2018-19 campaign, scoring 15 goals and adding seven assists in 21 league starts. At that point in time, many of the biggest clubs across Europe were interested in signing the teenager. Atletico Madrid beat teams like Manchester City and Manchester United to Félix, although it took a hefty price to obtain his services.
In his only top flight season with Benfica, he tallied 1,725 minutes in league play. Félix has eclipsed that number of minutes in just one season at Atletico Madrid, which was the 2019-20 campaign (1,745 minutes). His minutes have dropped in each of the last two seasons, making a total of 27 starts in the league from 2020 to 2022. For a player at his age with that much talent, Félix should start virtually every match.
The other players he is competing with for minutes includes Álvaro Morata, Antoine Griezmann, Ángel Correa and Matheus Cunha. Some of those players have quite a bit of talent, but Félix provides something different in comparison to them. He isn’t considered a natural striker, so his best position is still considered an unknown. Félix has the technical abilities to play as ten underneath the striker, but he can impact the game from a wider position too.
Playing in a defensive-minded team does not help with his development either, much thanks to the coaching philosophy of manager Diego Simeone. Atletico Madrid sets up in a way to allow other teams to obtain a majority of the possession, even though they have the upper hand in attacking talent.
That means that players like Griezmann and Félix have less opportunities to contribute in the final third, which would not be the case under a progressive manager who is willing to send numbers forward. Simeone has been the manager of Madrid since 2011, so it is hard to see the club sacking him anytime soon.
If Félix were to leave Atletico Madrid at the end of the season, you have to wonder how many clubs would actually be in the race for him. Madrid spent €126m on the player, so they’ll want to recoup a majority of that. It’s hard to see the club getting all of that money back in a potential deal, but they’d still fight for around €75m, maybe even €80m.
It also needs to be mentioned that the forward may not be able to succeed in certain leagues. For example, the Premier League is best known for its physicality and fast-paced play. While Félix can play at that pace, I’m not sure how he would fit in with that physicality. So if he were to reject a deal to come play in England, clubs with an excess of money like Chelsea, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs would be out of the race.
I could envision Félix making a move to Germany, where the game is played in a way where space is always available in behind. The style of the Italian league would provide an interesting fit, but there may not be a club that would be willing to spend that much money on one player. Of course he could stay in Spain as well, but I don’t see Atletico Madrid giving him the ability to play for another team in their division.
João Félix is a player that has shown he can perform at the highest level, but his consistency has always let him down. The combination of the league he plays in, coaching, and role on the team have made it hard on his production. Felix certainly needs a new situation in order to get his career back on track.
Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone is a team that does not play free-flowing football, so attacking players are destined to contribute less goals and assists. If Félix wants to become one of the best players of the next generation with the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland, he needs to leave Atletico Madrid in order to fulfill his potential.