Premier League • England

Liverpool, Man Utd on high alert after Simeone widens rift with Atletico ace – ‘You can ask him’

Atletico Madrid pair Jose Gimenez and Joao Felix

Liverpool and Man Utd have received a ‘transfer boost’ after Diego Simeone fired back at the curious comments of transfer target Joao Felix.

Joao Felix, 22, joined Atletico Madrid from Benfica for a whopping £113m in 2019. The Portuguese has shown flashes of his mercurial talents and bagged seven goals as Atletico were crowned La Liga kings last season.

However, their title defence has been characterised by inconsistency, with Simeone’s side currently labouring in fourth – 15 points behind bitter rivals Real Madrid.

Atletico exited the Copa del Rey to Real Sociedad at the Round of 16 stage last month. They were also dumped out of the Spanish Super Cup by Athletic Bilbao. That makes the Champions League their only hope of silverware this campaign.

Felix too has struggled on an individual level. The lively attacker has notched just two league goals amid a series of minor injuries and has rarely completed a full 90 minutes.

Nonetheless, his talents remain unquestioned, leading to persistent links to Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd in the past.

Manchester City had 3 bids for Joao Felix rejected by Atletico

Manchester City had 3 bids for Joao Felix rejected by Atletico

Manchester City had 3 bids for Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix rejected this January

And Felix’s recent comments when detailing Atletico’s struggles raised eyebrows last week.

Felix told the Athletic: “I think we all know what the problem is [with the team], I don’t want to say though.”

That cryptic comment has predictably gone down like a lead balloon with the no-nonsense Simeone.

Diego Simeone fires back at Joao Felix

When asked for a response prior to their chaotic 4-3 victory over Getafe on Saturday, Simeone snapped back (via the Daily Mail): “About what Joao said, you can ask him.

“I work according to the team. If he is clear about what the problem is, it would be good to know.”

Given Liverpool signed Luis Diaz in January, one might expect their transfer efforts next summer to focus on different areas. However, all three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah are out of contract in 2023.

Liverpool Sadio Mane Roberto Firmino Mohamed Salah goal celebration v West Brom, May 2021

The trio will all be over 30 when next season begins. It is not inconceivable that Liverpool’s frugal American owners opt to move on from one or more of the aging stars.

Felix would represent something of a gamble for Klopp’s side. Though the Liverpool Echo insist they may now be on ‘red alert’ with the chances of an Atletico exit now ‘increased’.

It is a similar story at Old Trafford with Cristiano Ronaldo 37 and Edinson Cavani turning 35 tomorrow. Felix has operated primarily in a central position at Atletico.

Liverpool told Van Dijk not what he was

Meanwhile, Virgil van Dijk has surprisingly been identified as someone who can be taken advantage of in an upcoming challenge.

Looking ahead to the Champions League meeting between Liverpool and Inter Milan, Paolo Di Canio claimed the Serie A champions can take advantage of van Dijk.

He told Sportweek (via Football Italia): “At this stage of the season, Liverpool have some small cracks in the armour that can be exploited.

“The Liverpool of two years ago had an impenetrable defence, as Virgil van Dijk had improved everyone around him. Since returning from injury, he’s not the same player and therefore the whole team concedes more.

“Liverpool keep conceding the same dangerous opportunities nowadays, vertical balls behind the defenders, who then start their runs late. That lack of focus is where Inter can hurt them.

“If you also look at Van Dijk’s body language, he used to move his arms to bring the full-backs tighter. But now he just flails his arms, complaining and looking frustrated with his teammates.”

READ MORE: Paratici goes full steam ahead by ‘prioritising’ Tottenham deal for star signing ahead of Liverpool