Portuguese superstar Joao Felix looks set for a return to Atletico Madrid after reports in the British national press suggest that Felix does not feature in new Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the upcoming season. Enrique Cerezo, the president of the Colchoneros, confirmed that Chelsea has no plans to make Felix’s loan move permanent.
Felix joined Chelsea on an initial five-month loan deal with a view to a permanent transfer in the summer. Felix was thought to be keen on a move to the Premier League giants, stating that he loved his time at Stamford Bridge and would very much like to stay in London. However, on May 30, Cerezo spoke to Spanish outlet AS and said, “Yesterday, we had the news that the new Chelsea manager does not want Joao Felix. We’ve known for less than 24 hours. He’ll come back here, and we’ll see. We don’t have anything planned.”
Football’s Fourth Most Expensive Player
Atletico paid €126 million to Benfica for Felix on July 3, 2019, the fourth-highest sum ever paid in football. Felix gained a reputation for his technical ability and for becoming one of the best players not only for Benfica but also for the Portugal national team, who he helped become the seventh favorite in the latest World Cup betting markets. Felix turned out in Atletico’s famous red and white stripes 131 times in all competitions, scoring 34 goals.
After falling out of favor with Diego Simeone, Felix dropped the pecking order and was Ateltico’s fifth-choice attacker at one stage. A lack of game time prompted Felix to join Chelsea on a five-month deal until the conclusion of the 2022-23 season. He made his Chelsea debut in the Premier League against Fulham but was shown a straight red card at 58 minutes. Felix scored the opening goal in a 1-1 draw against West Ham United on his return to the Chelsea team. Felix leaves Chelsea having scored four goals in 20 ppearances.
Why is Pochettino Not Keen on Felix?
Pochettino takes over a Chelsea squad that massively underperformed last season. The Blues finished 12th in the Premier League despite spending an estimated €611 million on transfers.
They spent €35 million on winger Noni Madueke and another €70 million on Ukrainian left winger Mykhaylo Mudryk. Raheem Sterling also joined the club from Manchester City, with Chelsea paying €56.2 million for the England international. Chelsea has been crying out for a striker, and the club has been utilizing Felix as a second striker and sometimes as a False 9.
Rumors of Romelu Lukaku returning to Stamford Bridge from Inter Milan continue gathering pace, and a €55 million deal for RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku is imminent. Twenty-five-year-old Nkuku finished as the German Bundesliga’s top scorer with 16 goals despite an injury-hit campaign that saw him play only 25 games. Nkuku likes to occupy the space behind a striker, and Pochettino does not believe he needs two players in that position.
What Next for Felix?
Felix left the Civitas Metropolitan Stadium under a dark cloud following the deterioration of his relationship with Simeone. The Argentine head coach is known for sticking to his principles, which suggests Felix may find it challenging to regain his place in the starting line-up. The next UEFA European Championships are only 12 months away, and Felix requires regular first-team football if he is to make it into the Portuguese squad for the tournament in Germany.
Only a handful of teams could consider buying Felix, especially when Atletico wants to recoup as much of the €126 million transfer fee as possible. In addition, Felix earns a reported €280,000 per week, which prices him out of almost every team on the planet.
Paris St. Germain, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester City are the only realistic routes out of Ateltico for the talented youngster. Of those, on PSG makes any sense with the teams’ current squad, and only then if the rumors of Lionel Messi making a shock return to Barcelona become truth.
Simeone and Felix need to sit down during the off-season and sort out their differences because Felix could play a significant role in Atletico’s La Liga title challenge during the 2023-24 season.