Support from Antwerp did not help Arthur Vermeeren. His surprising debut in the starting line-up at Atlético ended after just 45 minutes. A ruthless Diego Simeone subsequently justified his decision to leave a doubting Vermeeren in the dressing room at half-time. After all, he was not completely free with the equalizer. “At Atlético there is certainly pressure, but he has personality,” said Simeone.
Sure enough, a red Antwerp shirt with the number 48 flew in the stands of the Civitas Metropolitano stadium. The owner, Gert Jacobs from Zandhoven, shares two football loves: Antwerp FC and Atlético. His trip to Madrid was a calculated gamble: to be there when Vermeeren makes his debut.
In the club shop – or so they told him – he bought Vermeeren’s first replica shirt. A little later he received information through official channels that our compatriot would start. All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
Vermeeren had felt during training on Tuesday that he could start. The rondos suggested it. He was promised playing opportunities anyway, last week before he signed. After all, Atlético faces a busy month of February, with La Liga football, Champions League and cup football.
Atléti will play the big city derby against Real on Sunday. For the mini-neighborhood battle with Rayo, Diego Simeone changed his entire team: no Griezmann, no De Paul, no Morata and co. No fewer than seven substitutions and Vermeeren and Axel Witsel in the team. That’s called heavy rotation.
With an unprecedented team, Atlético had difficulty making its mark. Vermeeren took his place on the right of central midfield. Before halftime, he was not accurate enough in passing seven times – those percentages were much higher in the Jupiler Pro League.
It’s part of the adjustment to a higher level, with barely a handful of training sessions in the legs. On the other hand, Vermeeren did not hide away. With each of the ten ball losses, he immediately tried to recover the lost ball. Correct mistakes.
Teammates regularly gave him a thumbs up to encourage him. There was understanding for a nervous debutant.
Reinildo scored the opener in a standard phase, but with the equalizer, Chavarría was allowed to run into Vermeeren’s back on the right. One that a ruthless Simeone wrote in his book.
At halftime he understandably left Vermeeren in the dressing room. Without Vermeeren, Atlético still came out on top after a late goal from Memphis Depay.
His Antwerp fans had come for little.
Diego Simeone about Vermeeren: “It will be fine”
Simeone afterwards briefly discussed the debut of Vermeeren, who is now the second-youngest signing to make his debut, after Gimenez in 2013. “There are times when you have to invest in footballers who can become important in the future, but also when you have to face this new situation.”
“At Atlético de Madrid there is pressure, especially in this stadium, and he is a boy who has personality. Those 45 minutes were good to face reality with Vermeeren. From now on we will deal with him in the best way. Time is on our side.”
“Clearly he still has to adapt”
The Spanish press did not focus on our compatriot. Marca: “Vermeeren made his debut at Atlético inconspicuously. The Belgian played the first 45 minutes of the match and it was clear that he still has to adapt to the team. Defensively he lacked strength and good positioning, as was evident from the equalizer.” In that other newspaper, AS, his ‘timid debut’ was worth a line.
Atlético coach Diego Simeone (53) dresses according to the image that some have given him: that of a gravedigger of young talent. Is that reputation correct? What philosophy does Simeone apply at Atlético? Our foreign football expert Kristof Terreur explains: Is Arthur Vermeeren’s new coach a gravedigger of talent? “Simeone can convince you to buy the Vatican”
Free unlimited access to Showbytes? Which can!
Log in or create an account and never miss anything from the stars.
Yes, I want free unlimited access