On switching to London, Saul said: ‘I am very excited to start this new challenge with Chelsea. Blues fans, I am one of you now and I can’t wait to wear the shirt, start training and see all of you. See you soon!’
Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia added: ‘We welcome Saul to the Club and believe he completes our squad as we compete for honours in five different competitions this season. He is a proven winner, a player with huge experience and we know he will be very well-suited to the challenges that face us on all fronts in the coming year.’
The 26-year-old midfielder has up until now spent his entire club career in Madrid in his native Spain, having begun his youth career at Real Madrid before switching to Atletico, with one loan spell at another capital city club Rayo Vallecano.
He played 33 of the 38 La Liga games in 2020/21 and scored twice as Diego Simeone’s side beat Real to the title by two points.
They were less successful in the Champions League however, with Saul starting both games of the round of 16 tie against Chelsea which the Blues won 3-0 on aggregate.
The previous time the two clubs were drawn together in the competition, in the group stage in 2017/18, Saul was also involved and indeed he opened the scoring with a header in our meeting at Stamford Bridge before an own-goal ensured the match ended in a draw.
Chelsea went on to play Barcelona in the knockout stages that season while the Spaniards dropped into the Europa League although they went on to lift that trophy. Saul scored a further three European goals in the campaign, against FC Copenhagen and home and away against Lokomotiv Moscow. Arsenal were defeated in the semi-final and Marseille were comprehensively despatched by three goals to nil in the final. Saul played the whole of that match.
His contribution to the earlier season when the Europa League was won, in 2011/12, was his Atletico Madrid debut when he came on in a win at home to Besiktas. His appearances increased to 11 the following season and after a La Liga loan to Rayo Vallecano in 2013/14, he became a regular selection back at his parent club the following year (an acrobatic goal in a 4-0 win over Real Madrid helped establish him) and remained so.
In consecutive seasons (2015/16 and 2016/17) he scored nine goals, one of them coming in a Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich. That lead to a final against biggest rivals Real with the match in the San Siro all-square at 1-1 after extra time. Saul was one of three Atleti players to convert a penalty in the shoot-out but with their opponents slotting their first five, he was denied club football’s biggest prize.
Another Champions League goal proved to be the winner in a quarter-final tie against Leicester City and in a more recent game, his goal at home to Liverpool in February 2020 helped knock them out of the competition.
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