Joao Felix edges closer to Premier League move this January as Chelsea eye six-month loan deal

Joao Felix looks set to leave Atletico Madrid this month after falling out of favour under manager Diego Simeone.

Published: 10 January 2023 - 11.24am
Joao Felix
Joao Felix could move to the Premier League this January

Joao Felix is poised to leave Atletico Madrid in January in what is potentially one of the biggest moves of the winter transfer window.

Signed for £113million in the summer of 2019, the Portugal international's relationship with coach Diego Simeone has fallen apart and the forward is now being made available to loan.

Why is the player free to leave Spain? Who is interested in signing him? have answered all the key questions around the deal.

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What has happened between Joao Felix and Diego Simeone?

“Joao Felix is the biggest investment this club has made,” Atletico Madrid's chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin said last month.

“I believe he is a top, world-class player, but for reasons it is not worth getting into now, the relationship between him and Diego Simeone is not good, nor is his motivation.

“The reasonable thing is to think he will leave. Although I would love him to stay, that is not the player’s idea.”

There have been problems between player and coach for a while now. During Atletico's La Liga title-winning campaign of 2020/21, Simeone told a press conference that "talent is not enough, it needs the personality to back it up" of his record signing.

The suggestion has been that Felix does not match the intense demands of Simeone and his coaching staff by working hard enough for the team on the pitch. 

Joao Felix and Diego Simeone
Joao Felix and Diego Simeone's relationship has fallen apart

Felix for his part appears to feel underappreciated for his contributions to the team and even raised his finger to his lips towards the direction of his bench after scoring in a win over Villarreal that season.

After the derby defeat to Real Madrid in September, Simeone dropped Felix from Atletico's starting XI for an eight-game run in La Liga and the Champions League. In total he's started only nine games in all competitions.

Simeone suggested Felix's lack of game time was due to the striker's lack of application in training, saying: "I have to pick the team based on what he is showing at training, it's not about the system... we need everyone to be good for the collective to benefit".

Atletico were eliminated from the Champions League group stages with Felix mostly watching on from the substitutes' bench and was later photographed on a night out after his club's European exit.

Will Felix leave in January?

Gil's comments have paved the way for an exit this month and Felix's agent Jorge Mendes has been busy sounding out potential destinations for his client.

Chelsea are understood to be in pole position to acquire the Portuguese's services after recent injuries to Christian Pulisic and Raheem Sterling.

Arsenal are also interested in the 23-year-old after the World Cup injury to forward Gabriel Jesus left them with only Eddie Nketiah as a forward option until mid-February.

Mikel Arteta's title-chasers are left short in attacking options and are targeting recruits in January as they attempt to claim a first Premier League title since 2004. 

Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann
Simeone has preferred Antoine Griezmann to Joao Felix at times this season

Manchester United are also interested in the former Benfica striker but are also put off by the financial package required to sign Felix on loan.

All three Premier League clubs will be on high alert throughout the month though and the situation could well shift as the transfer window progresses.

Felix's contract at Atletico does not run out until 2026 and the club are under no pressure to sell him. Either way they are unlikely to recoup anywhere close to the £113m fee Felix signed for from Benfica.

What would Felix bring to the Premier League?

Felix's talent is unquestionable but his overall return of 34 goals and 18 assists in 130 Atletico Madrid matches is disappointing.

Attacking and flair players have struggled to express themselves in Simeone's rigid system but more would have been expected from Felix regardless.

The hope is that away from hard taskmaster Simeone, Felix would be able to express himself more as he demonstrated with Benfica and Portugal. He scored once and assisted twice in four matches with his country at the World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Felix
Joao Felix played with more freedom with his Portugal teammates in Qatar

Some of Felix's best performances for Atletico have come in the Champions League, interestingly against Premier League clubs with notable displays against Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Felix has mostly featured as one of two strikers in Atletico's 4-4-2 or on the left of an attacking trio in a 4-3-3, just as he featured for Portugal.

Not viewed as an out-and-out No 9, Felix is more of an attacking midfielder or winger who is capable of playing up front and facilitating for his team-mates.