Simeone talks up Atletico's youth development amid Joao Felix speculation

Atletico Madrid has been strongly linked with Benfica's Joao Felix and Diego Simeone did little to calm the speculation.

Joao Felix of Benfica   -  Getty Images

Diego Simeone talked up Atletico Madrid's track record of developing young players amid speculation it is closing in on Benfica talent Joao Felix.

Media reports began to emerge on Monday, claiming Atletico had struck a deal with Portuguese champions Benfica for the 19-year-old attacking midfielder – who scored 15 goals and set up another seven in the Primeira Liga this season.

Despite his tender age, it was suggested Atletico will pay Joao Felix's reported €120million release clause, the same fee it is expected to receive for Antoine Griezmann.

READ | Michel Platini denies wrongdoing in Qatar World Cup corruption case

Some fans have voiced reservations about replacing Griezmann with a relatively unproven youngster, but Simeone thinks developing young players is an area Atletico excel in.

Speaking to Fox Sports, Simeone said: "Historically, Atletico buy young players to develop them here.



"It's just like what happened with [Jan] Oblak, [Jose Maria] Gimenez and Lucas Hernandez when they came through from youth teams – or Griezmann.

"We want a talented guy who can absorb our ideas. Our technical staff is already working on some situations to help to develop players."

Atletico are going through a massive rebuild, with Lucas, Diego Godin, Luciano Vietto and Juanfran already confirmed exits, while Filipe Luis, Griezmann, Rodri, Vitolo and Nikola Kalinic are all tipped to leave as well.

READ | Bale 'very unlikely' to join Man United as agent rules out loan move

Simeone is no stranger to a turbulent transfer window, though he considers Atletico's current transition to be one of the trickiest he has been through.

"It's a difficult transition we're going through, but we face it with hope," he said. "It's a challenge and we have to face it because we are losing senior guys who have given a lot to the club.

"We are looking for Atletico to compete again as we have done so far. During seven-and-a-half years, we were second, third, first, second [in LaLiga]... It's not easy.

"Our renovation began last year began with Fernando Torres, Gabi, now Juanfran, all reference points, my guys, those who gave me everything and who did it wonderfully well.

"At this time we are preparing Oblak, Saul [Niguez] and Gimenez, to make them the leaders of the squad.

"If Joao Felix and others come with different characteristics than we had before, then we will have to play differently.

"In training we will see where we are going. It's clear that this year's challenge is one of the most complex since I arrived at the club."