MADRID — When in July 2021 Atlético de Madrid paid 35 million to Udinese for Rodrigo de Paul, a wave of general optimism began in Madrid. At that time, the midfielder was one of the most accessible jewels on the market and Atleti was ahead of other great teams in hiring him. It was a medium with strength, sacrifice and quality that, for many of those who surrounded Cholo Simeone, came like a glove to the midfield mattress.
The last two seasons of the Argentine had been very good. It is also true that, the critics will say, both were in the not so brilliant Italian Serie A, but there are his performance data and the interest of many European elite teams. De Paul was one of the best options at all levels.
However, his landing at the Metropolitan has not been as expected. De Paul, who is in his second season at the club, has linked good performances with many others that have disappointed a public that expected something more from the player. And this is not entirely bad because his arrival has coincided with the worst moment of the Simeone era, for which no one can blame the Argentine for the team’s performance: it is everyone’s business.
De Paul has had a couple of extra-sporting outings that have not gone down well with the club, much less with the fans. First, when, due to a family member’s illness, he had to travel to Argentina without warning that he would make a stopover in Miami and he was seen at a party there in October. And second, when he was caught in the Instagram stories of the singer Nati Peluso, he will do about three weeks, late at night singing in karaoke when he is still injured.
Nobody can tell De Paul anything about his habits off the pitch since he is old enough to know what someone of his level has to do. It would be more. He is already 28 years old and he is supposed to be old enough. And be careful, he can have mistakes, like everyone else, but the issue that worries him the most at the club is his performance on the pitch.
After a season and a half defending the colors of Atleti, the former Racing de Avellaneda still does not fit into the Cholo system. They say from the club that it “is very difficult” to adapt to Simeone’s scheme for those who come from abroad, but after so long it is something that worries him. De Paul is called to be the same De Paul who plays with Argentina, but the performance is a world away and nobody knows why.
For lack of opportunities it will not be. Only in La Liga, Simeone gave him 36 games in his first year and, this season, he has played 13 games. There is trust on the part of Cholo. What’s more, in his first year, according to club sources, “he started very well although he dissipated in the middle of the season due to various problems.” The same sources admit that, even so, De Paul was “key” in the last stretch of the campaign for the mattresses to ensure qualification for the Champions League.
That is the reason why, still to this day, both Simeone and the sports management itself continue to trust that De Paul will explode. With his lights and shadows, he is a player who is calmer, to whom social networks played a trick on him due to various mistakes of his own and who has in mind to succeed with Atleti every day. Do you have to improve? Obvious. More than anything because now he has the most complicated task of all: convincing the fans that the whistles received in the match against Valladolid will be the preamble to applause to get the redemption of a stand that ends up forgiving, but that demands better performance. In return.
De Paul has homework ahead of him. No one doubts him, despite the fact that what has been shown to date is not entirely rosy. For the good of the team and himself, the best version of him has to be seen in the coming months. He has plenty of qualities, but it remains to be seen if we will only enjoy them every time he plays with Argentina or every week at Atleti. It depends on him.