Atlético Madrid will take on a Timo Werner-less RB Leipzig in today’s Champions League quarterfinals. The goal-machine’s transfer to Chelsea will have made Jan Oblak’s job a fair bit easier, which he certainly won’t mind.
He’s got big ambitions after all, ambitions that were not met by Atléti this season in the league (finished third but well off the pace of Real Madrid and Barcelona by 17 and 12 points, respectively) and have yet to be met by Atléti in Europe since reaching the Champions League final in 2016, in Oblak’s first full season as the starting goalkeeper. They may have won the Europa League a couple years later, but that’s not the European prize that the 27-year-old has his mind and his heart set on.
“There is the goal of the club and its needs [qualifying for the Champions League] and then there is what I had in my head, my hope. This was to compete more with Barca and [Real] Madrid until the end of the season, but it couldn’t be. The club’s target was met, but my hopes weren’t.”
On the surface, this just makes Oblak an ambitious competitor, which we should expect from someone who’s one of the very best in the world and who’s been a key player for Diego Simeone for the past half-decade. And Atléti are always in the title conversation, both in Europe and in Spain, and that’s not a terrible place to be — even if actual silverware has been restricted to just the one aforementioned Europa League.
But combined with the recent Chelsea rumors, and his conscious deflection of that question in the same press conference, there is plenty of room left for rumor-mongering.
“This is not the time for that, now it’s Leipzig. I’ll look back at the season when the last game is over, and hopefully we’ll have three more [games to play]. Then there will be time to talk. But first, Leipzig. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Obviously this doesn’t mean anything in the real world, and it doesn’t lower Oblak’s €120m buyout clause, and so on, but it’s fun to speculate.