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The Hat-trick | Costa, Atletico Part Ways Without ‘Damage’; Allardyce Calls for ‘Circuit Break’ Amid Rising Covid-19 Cases; Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC Dissolve Women’s Side

The Hat-trick (Top Football News of the Day): Atletico Madrid end Diego Costa’s contract prematurely via mutual agreement | Amid rising Covid-19 cases in the Premier League, managers divided on the way ahead | Swedish women’s champions, Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC shut shop a month after winning the title.
Diego Costa and Diego Simeone of Atletico Madrid

Diego Costa was Diego Simeone’s lead man during Atletico Madrid’s incredible run to the La Liga title and Champions League final in 2013-14.

Atletico Madrid have shown how a club should act while dealing with players who are keen to leave. Unlike how FC Barcelona made a meal out of the exit of Luis Suarez -- who incidentally moved to Atletico -- and the nasty episode with Lionel Messi, Atletico have amicably settled the contract termination episode with striker Diego Costa, keeping the well being of the player and that of the club in mind.

Costa left Atletico after the contract was terminated by mutual consent, the club announced on Tuesday. Costa's deal would have ended in June 2021. With the termination, Costa will be able to join a new club (other than La Liga or Champions League rivals as there is a contractual clause that prevents that scenario) on a free transfer, while Atletico reduce their wage bill. The Liga leaders can use the money saved to strengthen their squad -- possibly on the attacking side -- during the January transfer window. It clearly is a win situation for both.

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"The striker asked to leave the club for personal reasons a few days ago and on Tuesday signed the termination of his contract.

"The club thanks Diego Costa for his dedication during these years and wishes him well in the next stage of his professional career," read the statement from Atletico.

Club manager Diego Simeone and Costa had a very close relationship with the striker being the fulcrum around which the Argentine built his squad in the early part of this decade. They reached the Champions League final in 2013-14 and also won the Liga title the same year, Atletico’s first domestic triumph in 18 years. Costa, who scored 27 domestic goals that season, then left for Chelsea.

The 32-year-old rejoined Atletico from Chelsea in January 2018 for €66 million. Simeone, understandably, adores Costa. He had given "everything" to the club, said the coach.

"He has given us a lot and we have given him a lot," Simeone said on Tuesday

However, the fact remains that the former Spain international was a fringe player for Atletico this season, making just seven Liga appearances and scoring twice. All the more reason why Simeone felt it was important that they released Costa to allow him the opportunity to reinvent himself and resurrect his career. The coach believes Costa has a few more years of great football left in him.  

"The club has been able to help him without being damaged and that generates peace of mind," said Simeone. "You know that we love Diego, we have spent a lot of time together in the best way, we gave each other a lot and we have talked with him.

"He also has the need to find new challenges because he is well, strong and I cannot imagine another scenario other than him going on to do good things, because he is a fighter.

"[We want] to thank him, as with all the people who have given us their hearts, and Diego has been one of them from the sporting and human point of view,” added Simeone.

Rising Covid-19 Cases in EPL a Concern

West Bromwich Albion manager Sam Allardyce has called for a temporary halt to the Premier League season to act as a “circuit break” amid rising Covid-19 cases at top-flight clubs.

The Premier League said 18 individuals had tested positive for the novel coronavirus between December 21-27, the most in a week this season, with Sheffield United reporting several new cases before Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat by Burnley.

On Monday, Manchester City reported more cases, days after Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker tested positive, and their game at Everton was postponed. With the UK battling a highly infectious variant of the coronavirus (one that has also seen various countries including India stop flights to and from Britain) Allardyce said it was time to act.

“Everyone’s safety is more important than anything else. When I listen to the news the variant virus transmits quicker than the original ... we can only do the right thing which is have a circuit break,” Allardyce told reporters.

“I’m 66 and the last thing I want to do is catch Covid. I’m very concerned for myself and football... We had one positive this week and it seems to be creeping around no matter how hard we try.”

The situation puts clubs and the league itself in a Catch 22 situation with no easy way out. Increasing infections put players, managers and most importantly staff at risk, but postponing the season will mean bottom loading fixtures within a limited time frame again. For a season that has already struggled for spacing and time between matches, this could be detrimental to players health, an assertion Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made.

Allardyce and Solskjaer’s diametrically opposed views are also reflected in their team’s positions on the table and latest results. United beat Wolves 1-0 yesterday to climb to second in the table. West Brom meanwhile lost 5-0 to Leeds, are second to last and have the worst goal difference in the league. 

Swedish Women’s Champions Dissolve Club

If the vast gap between the men’s game and the women’s game has seemingly been bridged over the past couple of years, yesterday’s news over a club’s closure shone the spotlight on how much ground there remains to be covered to actually achieve equality.

The champions of the Swedish women’s league, Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, dissolved their senior side releasing all players from their contracts just over a month after winning a first league title.

The decision to fold the senior side was made by the board on 17 December, the day after a 3-0 defeat by Manchester City in the Champions League ensured the Swedish champions exited the last-32 5-1 on aggregate. They announced the decision to the staff on Tuesday.

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Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC — who are not attached to a men’s club —  will still run teams up to under-19 level but the investment of Kopparbergs, the brewery and the club’s title sponsor, is being withdrawn.

Club chairman Peter Bronsmanis, also the CEO of Kopparbergs, explained the decision in a succinct statement. “My opinion and that of the board is that having a women’s elite team is not compatible with 2021. The big four men’s teams have their own women’s teams. We have done what we promised. We have created a lot of role models and got a lot of [girls] to start playing football.”

One point of Bronsmanis’ statement, about men’s teams having women’s teams striked harder than most. With many big men’s teams now investing in women’s squads (the latest of which is Real Madrid) there remains the risk that pioneering and independent women football clubs may soon see themselves cut adrift with lesser funding and even fewer players keen to join up. 

Some big teams have chosen to merge with independent women’s teams and take over their finances, while others have chosen to start afresh. It is a deeply paradoxical situation. Expansion is necessary. Big clubs embracing women’s football is a boon. But at what cost?

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