"Some people are born with an innate talent that they show from a young age. Writers, painters, sculptors, sportsmen… The word that best describes Joao [Felix] is ‘talent’. At 19, he has a great career ahead of him and we’re proud that he chose the Red & White colours."
Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo thought he'd completed one of the coups of the century when Felix's €126 million (£111m/$143m) transfer from Benfica was confirmed in July 2019. Every top club in Europe had been tracking Felix's progress at Estadio Da Luz, but he decided that Atleti offered him "the best conditions to progress".
A series of muscle injuries prevented Felix from making a significant impact and living up to comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo at the Metropolitano in 2019-20, but he didn't regret his decision. “I just play to have fun," he added in an interview with Benfica TV. "You don’t have to think you’re going to be the next Ronaldo or that you’re going to win this or that. You just have to have fun and enjoy the moment to the fullest.”
Simeone has always made sure that Atletico punch above their weight, instilling a sense of discipline and resilience in his squad along with a will to win by any means necessary. But 'fun' is not a word that has generally been associated with the Los Rojiblancos over the past decade.
Felix and Atletico never seemed like the right match, and so it has proved, despite his respectable haul of 34 goals and 16 assists across the last four seasons. The 23-year-old has played 131 games for Atletico to date, but he's failed to establish himself as a vital cog in Simeone's line up.
Indeed, he fell out of favour almost entirely in the first half of the 2022-23 campaign, completing a full 90 minutes in La Liga just once, and Atletico jumped at the chance to send him out on loan when Chelsea came calling.
Felix also failed to convince at Stamford Bridge, and it was no surprise when the Blues decided against trying to make his switch permanent. Speculation over his future has been raging since his return to Atleti, where he is still under contract until 2027.
But instead of working to get his career back on track in the Spanish capital, Felix has turned traitor by issuing a come-and-get-me plea to Atleti's arch-rivals, Barcelona...