Atletico Madrid fan favourite Saul Niguez parted ways with Los Rojiblancos to make a move to the Premier League, where he will join Chelsea on a one-year loan deal, which includes an option to buy for 40 million euros next summer.
While everything indicated that Saul will stay at Atleti this season, on deadline day the club and player decided that he should try his luck elsewhere, despite being one of their top performers in LaLiga Santander so far this term.
At Chelsea, Saul will face fierce competition to establish himself in a team that features world-class midfielders such as Jorginho and N’Golo Kante in Thomas Tuchel’s preferred 3-4-3 formation.
Although the Spaniard can also play as a left wing-back in Tuchel’s system, the German tactician already has two competent players in this area in the form of Ben Chilwell and Marcos Alonso.
In an interview with Spanish streamer Ibai Llanos on Twitch after his move to Chelsea was sealed, Saul revealed that the Blues have agreed that he can play in his natural position in the middle of the park.
“Chelsea have promised to play me in my position and we will see [where] I will play,” said Saul.
“The most important reason for my decision is that I will return to certain habits that I do not do now. I want to go, try the experience and see what happens. I don’t want to think further than that.”
Fresh start at Chelsea
Saul is willing to do anything it takes to rediscover his form with the Blues, but to do so Tuchel should give him the opportunity to feature where he played his best football.
Over the last couple of years at Atletico, Diego Simeone converted Saul into a player who featured on the left-hand side of defence in a 4-4-2 formation or as a left wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation.
Yet, Saul was unhappy with his coach’s decision as he struggled to adapt to his new role in the team, despite Simeone being adamant that this move would benefit the team’s fluidity on the pitch.
“The only thing is that I felt stuck because I wasn’t playing in my position,” Saul told Ibai.
“My head did not accept my new role of playing in a new position. I have had several conversations with Cholo [Simeone] about my positions, because it’s not something new, I have been like this for three years.
“I owe everything to him, I have a great relationship with him, but he has to be selfish and think about the team.
“He thinks that with me on the flank the team performs better. But this is a win-win situation. The club and the coach brought in a player they wanted [Antoine Griezmann] and I’m going to a very big club that wanted me.”
Saul’s departure to Chelsea could potentially benefit all three parties involved in the deal. Atletico Madrid made space in their salary cap to facilitate Griezmann’s return, Saul got his much-needed change of scenery and Chelsea have signed one of the most talented midfielders in Spain.
To get the most out of Saul, however, Tuchel should consider helping him rediscover his form by giving him playing time in his natural position in midfield.