Madrid: After they sold top scorer Diego Costa and fullback Felipe Luis to Chelsea, some predicted Atletico Madrid would struggle to repeat their achievements in 2013-14 when they won La Liga and reached the Champions League final.
The high-profile departures also included goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who returned to parent club Chelsea after a loan deal, but defender Juanfran believes the arrival of the likes of Mario Mandzukic, Antoine Griezmann and, most recently, Fernando Torres means the current squad is even better.
Results on the pitch suggest he may be right.
Atletico are third in La Liga, three points behind Barcelona and four adrift of leaders Real Madrid following their 4-0 humiliation of their city rivals at the Calderon last weekend.
They are also through to the last 16 of Europe`s elite club competition to face Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen.
As Juanfran and his team mates prepare for Sunday`s La Liga game at Celta Vigo, the Spain international praised the ability of the club and coach Diego Simeone to bolster the squad effectively and maintain the team`s competitiveness.
"The club has made a big effort to keep great players and bring in other very important ones who have lifted the level of the team," Juanfran told a news conference on Friday.
"The squad is better every year ... and that speaks very well of the work the club and the coach are doing," he added.
"It is very difficult for Atletico Madrid to prevent key players leaving given what we are achieving.
"But this year, for me, the squad is the best ever and I hope that next year it`s better again so we can continue to challenge the big clubs."
Atletico have proved they remain one of Europe`s top teams and their drubbing of Real, who beat them in last season`s Champions League final, was their second success against their neighbours in La Liga in 2014-15.
They also beat Real 2-1 on aggregate to win the Spanish Super Cup in August and knocked them out of the King`s Cup 4-2 over two legs last month.
"The truth is we played a great match the other day but we have already put it out of our minds," Juanfran said.
"For us they were three more points to help us in our goal of achieving great things. It has given us a lot of confidence to approach an extremely tough game against Celta."