Assist king Kieran Trippier showed why Atletico Madrid can’t afford to lose him

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The merits of Kieran Trippier’s betting ban are certainly debatable.

Yes, he knew the rules, and yes, he told his mates to “lump on” when he knew his move to Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2019 was almost sealed.

Yet the FA banning him for 10 weeks – longer than Leeds’ unrepentant ‘keeper Kiko Casilla got for racially abusing Jonathan Leko – when he doesn’t even play in an FA-affiliated competition any more seems, as Atletico boss Diego Simeone put it, “completely unjust.”

Why should Spanish club Atletico suffer for something Trippier did when he was in England and subject to English FA rules?

More pertinently, should the FA be policing football transfer gambling markets at all? You’d hope they’d have something better to do with their time.

Fortunately for Atletico, FIFA saw merit in Simeone’s argument and intervened. On January 2, the world governing body temporarily suspended Trippier’s ban, pending an appeal.

That decision came too late for Trippier to feature against Alaves, but on Tuesday night, the Lancashire-born right-back returned to Los Colchoneros’ starting line-up for the home tie with Sevilla.

During his 95 minutes motoring up and down the right flank at the Wanda Metropolitano, Trippier showed just why Simeone – yesterday named Manager of the Decade by the IFFHS – was so desperate not to lose him.

Before kick-off, Atleti had three games in hand on most teams in LaLiga. Yet owing to their brilliant form this season – and here special merit must go to their notoriously miserly defence – they sat first in the table, a point ahead of local rivals Real.

Sevilla are no pushovers of course, and started brightly, with a chance falling to Ivan Rakitic early on. But Atleti battled their way into the game and after 17 minutes were ahead.

Thomas Lemar skipped forward from midfield and seeing the overlapping run from Trippier, who was playing on the right of a back five, knocked it into the ex-Spurs man’s path.

Trippier cut a nice pass back to Angel Correa, who spun cleverly and fired low past Sevilla ‘keeper Bono, who stretched out a long, left arm but still didn’t find what he was looking for. (Sorry).

From there, the game played out as expected and, you imagine, exactly as Simeone had planned.

Atleti packed men in at the back; a bank of five, a bank of four and Luis Suarez flitting around in front of them, biting ankles (not literally, I hasten to add) and kicking shins.

Atleti looked to hit Sevilla on the break and on one of those rare forays, Trippier almost managed another assist to add to the five he already has in 2020-21, which make him the joint-second most creative player in the division.

Suarez nipped in behind the Sevilla backline and Trippier curled a delightful pass from the right flank straight into the Uruguayan’s path. This time, Bono made himself big and repelled Suarez’s effort.

Try as they might in the second half – and they really did try; at one point centre-back Jules Kounde was playing as a right winger – Sevilla could not find a way through the red-and-white wall.

Trippier stood as firm as anyone, helping keep Marcos Acuna quiet and proving that he really can defend when inserted into the correct system.

Late on, with Sevilla tiring, Atletico finally made the most of the space in behind, and Trippier was at the centre of the move once more.

His wonderfully weighted ball down the line released Marcos Llorente, whose low cut back found Saul, and the Atleti stalwart did the rest.

Simeone’s side now find themselves four points ahead of Real with a further two games in hand, so are surely favourites for the title.

They have conceded just six goals in 16 league games so far, and with Trippier providing a brilliant creative outlet up the right, they are a threat at the other end.

It is easy to see why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was reportedly interested in taking Trippier to Old Trafford in January – at least before that betting ban was announced – but even with United top of the league, Trippier would be mad to leave Madrid right now.


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