Atletico Madrid starlet Joao Felix is a talented player but he’s playing for the “wrong club”, according to Rafael van der Vaart.
Felix became the most expensive Portuguese player in history when he completed a £113 million ($148m) switch from Benfica to Wanda Metropolitano back in July.
The 20-year-old emerged as one of the brightest prospects in European football at Estadio da Luz last season, scoring 19 goals in 37 appearances across all competitions.
His performances attracted attention from some of the world’s biggest clubs, including Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint Germain, but Atletico ended up winning the race for his signature.
Felix started the 2019-20 brightly enough, and picked up the coveted Golden Boy award in November for the best U21 player in c, beating the likes of Jadon Sancho and Kai Havertz in the final voting.
The ex-Benfica star has been unable to kick on since then, however, with Atletico slipping down to sixth in the La Liga standings after 22 fixtures.
Simeone’s men were beaten 1-0 by local rivals Real in the Madrid derby at Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, with Felix missing the clash through injury.
Van der Vaart has criticised Simeone for failing to adjust Atletico’s playing style to accommodate Felix, while suggesting the midfielder shouldn’t have chosen to continue his development at Wanda Metropolitano.
“Joao Felix is a fine player, but he’s at the wrong club,” the ex-Real star told Ziggo Sport.
“When they signed the Portuguese striker, I felt that [Diego] Simeone would try and embark on a different brand of playing, but that’s far from the case.
“I understand that winning is important but when you have a talented forward like him, you need to cater to the style of play somewhat to suit his needs.
“Atletico Madrid play in a very compact manner with a heavy focus on defending well and attacking on the counter.
“Felix, I feel, is at the wrong club and working under the wrong coach.”
It is not yet known when Felix will return to action after sustaining a muscle injury during a 0-0 draw against Leganes on January 26, with Atletico now in real danger of finishing outside of the top four in La Liga.
Next up for Simeone’s struggling team is a home fixture against Leganes on Saturday, which comes seven days before they take in a trip to the Mestalla to face Valencia.