When Atletico Madrid spent £118million on Joao Felix in 2019 they were convinced they would have the last laugh. The sentiment was: it might look like an expensive signing now, but in a few years it will seem like a bargain.

The 21-year-old former Benfica forward still has plenty of time to prove the club right, but almost two years into his seven-year contract there are no signs yet that he is the next big thing and that Atletico stole a march on the rest of Europe when they snaffled him up for a club-record transfer fee.

If ever a player needed a big game to announce his arrival on the world stage and make it clear Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe aren’t going to have it all their own way over the next few years then it’s the golden boy from Portugal.

Atletico would love that career-defining game to come tonight against Chelsea, seeing them safely into the next round and earning them the €10m prize-money that goes with reaching the quarter-finals.

That necessity for Joao to step forward was all too apparent on Tuesday when he was put up for the pre-match press conference alongside Diego Simeone. That had never happened since his arrival at the club.

‘Without desire talent is not enough,’ he said. ‘A lot of players with talent don’t reach the top because they don’t have the desire. I don’t want that to happen to me.’

The ‘talent is not enough’ line is Simeone’s. He has been rolling it out the last few weeks, always at pains to say he is not using it in direct reference to Joao, but everyone knows it’s absolutely about the Atletico No 7. continue reading

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