Since the last decade if there is a team that has posed a serious challenge to the duopoly in Spanish League it is none other than El Atleti. Also known famously as the Los Rojiblancos(the red and whites), Atletico Madrid have shown the soccer world that there is no substitute for hard work. The won the Spanish Liga on goal difference and also reached the Champions League Finale in Lisbon almost winning it. The Spanish club is based in Madrid and has always enjoyed a relishing derby rivalry with their Madrid rivals none other than Real Madrid.
The club plays its home games at the famous Vicente De Calderon which has a capability of seating 54960 spectators. Atletico however are soon going to move to their new home Estadio La Peineta which boasts a seating capacity of 70000.
The club has won La Liga on ten occasions including a league and cup double in 1996. They have won the Copa Del Rey ten times, Supercopa De Espana twice and the Copa Eva Duarte thrice. In Europe they won the European Cup Winners cup in 1962 along with being the runners-up in 1963 and 1986. They were European cup runners up in 1974 and 2014. They have also won the Europa league in 2010 and in 2012 and have bagged the Uefa Super Cup in 2010 and 2012 as well as an intercontinental cup in 1974.
The club was originally formed on 26th April 1903 as a youth team of the club Athletic Bilbao. This venture was taken jointly by three Basque students residing in Madrid. Later in 1904 they were joined by dissident members of Real Madrid. The club originally played in the blue and white colors similar to Athletic Bilbao, but according to a legend since in those days the blankets were made of red and white stripes and the club tried to cut short the cost of their football shirts by buying the cheaper leftover cloth after blanket making. Hence they earned the nickname Los Colchoneros which means the mattress makers.
Atletico’s first ground was the Ronda De Vallecas, which was situated in the south of the city. In 1921, Atletico Madrid became independent of Athletic Bilbao. A sports stadium was built by a communication company of Spain and it was named Estadio Metropolitano De Madrid and Atletico got a new 35800 seat home. However, Metropolitano was their home only until 1966. Their new home is Vicente Calderon.
In the 1920s the club won three Campeonato Del Centro and they were the runners-up of the Copa Del Rey in 1921 which saw them face their parent club Bilbao in the finals. This record was impressive enough for them to earn an invitation into the inaugural season of La Liga in 1928. After spending two seasons in La Liga they were relegated to the Segunda division. They made a comeback into the top flight in 1934. Again in 1936 they were relegated though. But fortunately owing to the Spanish Civil War the stadium of Real Oviedo was bombed and destroyed thus the relegation of Atletico was postponed as they earned a play off chance. In the play offs they faced the champions of Segunda CA Osasuna and beat them to stay in the Primera Liga.
ATHLETIC AVIACON DE MADRID:
The tale of this club indicates the political tension that prevailed in the Spain that witnessed the Civil war. By 1939, when La Liga had resumed Atletico had merged with Aviacon Nacional of Zaragoza to form Athletic Aviacon De Madrid. Aviacon Nacional was the club formed by the members of the Air Force of Spain. Their promise of being allowed a place in the La Liga in 1939-1940 season was broken and thus a s a compromise they were merged with Atletico who had lost 8 players in the Civil War. Also the team was awarded a place in the La Liga only as a replacement for the club Real Oviedo. Ricardo Zamora was a legendary manager then and he led the club to Liga title that season along with its retention in the following season in 1941. Their legendary captain German Gomez had formed a lethal midfield partnership with Machín and Ramón Gabilondo. In 1941, in accordance to a decree issued by dictator general Franco which prohibited use of foreign names, the name of the club was changed to Atletico Aviacion De Madrid. In 1947, the club decided to abort the military element from their name and the name was restored again to simply, Club Atletico De Madrid. The same year the club beat their city rivals Real Madrid by 5-0 and this is their biggest win over their rivals till date.
THE GOLDEN AGE:
The most glorious era of Atleti came between 1947 and 1965. Under the charismatic management of Heleno Herrera the club won La Liga in 1950 and 1951. However after Herrera’s departure in 1953, the club slipped in La Liga and began fighting for the reputation of third team in Spain with Athletic Bilbao.
During the 1960s and 1970s the club seriously challenged Barcelona for the second spot in Spain. In 1957-1958 season they managed to get a second spot in La Liga at the cost of Barca and qualified for Europe the next season. In Europe they reached the semi-finals to face Real Madrid a game which they eventually lost on replay after a draw over two legs.
Atletico gained revenge over Madrid by beating them in the Copa Del Rey finals successively twice in 1960 and 1961. They won the European Cup Winners cup in 1962 which proved a very significant win as Real Madrid had never won it. The following year they again reached the finals but lost to Tottenham Hotspur. Enrique Collar was their influential player of the generation.
Between 1961 and 1980, Real Madrid dominated La Liga winning it 14 times. Atletico offered serious challenges by winning it only in 1966, 1970, 1973 and 1977. They were also runners-up in 1961, 1963 and 1965. The club had further success winning the Copa Del Rey thrice in 1965, 1972 and 1976.
THE CONTROVERSIAL EUROPEAN CUP FINALISTS:
In 1974, the club reached the European Cup final under the management of Juan Carlos Lorenzo, who was known as a shrewd, cautious and a coach who believed in disrupting the opponent’s game. He was widely criticized for his methods to win. On the way to final Atleti knocked out Galatasaray, Dinamo Bucuresti, Red Star Belgrade and Celtic. In the away leg against Celtic, Atleti had several of its players sent off and it is still considered as the worst match the competition has ever seen. Because of their cynicism they earned a 0-0 draw and in the home leg they won the game 2-0 and cruised to the finals. In the finals against a star packed Bayern Munchen they had almost won when Aragones scored on a freekick 7 minutes from time, but a late equalizer from Georg Schwarzenbeck forced the game into a replay which was comfortably won 4-0 by Munchen.
The club has enjoyed glories with and due to several influential managers across its histo
Luis Aragones, who was their veteran player was appointed as a coach. Aragones has served Atletico as a coach in four different stints between 1974 and 1980, 1982 to 1987, 1991 till 1993 and finally again in 2002 till 2003. In his first spell he won the intercontinental cup beating the Argentine club Independiente. He subsequently led the club to La Liga victory in 1977 and Copa Del Rey in 1976. During his second spell, he led Atleti to runners-up place in La Liga and a Copa Del Rey victory both in 1985. He led the club to a Supercopa De Espana success in 1985.
Luis Aragones is also honored as he is the club’s all-time top scorer till date.
Atletico spent two seasons in the Segunda Division, narrowly and agonizingly missing out on promotion in 2001 before winning the Segunda Division championship in 2002. It was again Luis Aragones, in his fourth and last spell as manager of Atletico, who deservedly brought them back to the Primera Division. He continued coaching the team in the following season, and gave Fernando Torres his Liga debut.
In 2006, Atletico signed Portuguese midfielders Maniche and Costinha and the Argentine forward Sergio Aguero. Also notable was Diego Forlan who was a European Golden boot winner. Despite these signings Atletico couldn’t manage to shine at the club level. Their most successful season was the 2007-2008 season when they reached the round of 32 in the UEFA cup, quarter final of the Copa Del Rey and managed to earn a 4th place in the La Liga to find themselves qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 1996-1997 season.
The arrival of Quique Flores as coach, the fortunes of Atletico were positively changing. Despite their lag in the La Liga, Atleti finished third in the 2009-2010 UEFA Champion’s League group stage and sealed their spot into the UEFA Europa League round of 32. They beat Liverpool on their road to the finals against Fulham. The final was quite dramatically won by Atletico courtesy of an extra time goal from Forlan which finished the match 2-1.
Atleti claimed the European title for the first time since 1961-1962 European Cup Winner’s Cup. They also reached the Copa Del Rey final on 19th May 2010 but lost to Sevilla. The Europa league winners qualified for the UEFA Super Cup to play against the Champions League winners Internazionale. Atletico won 2-0 by goals from Jose Antonio Reyes and Sergio Aguero and this was their first ever Super Cup win.
The following season was comparatively disappointing as they finished 7th in the league and being eliminated in the quarter finals of the Copa Del Rey and group stage of Europa league. Quique Flores was then replaced by Gregorio Manzano who managed to seal Atleti’s place in the Europa League qualification positions. But owing to his poor form in Liga, Manzano quickly made way for Diego Simeone.
Diego Simeone was often considered the Guardiola of Atletico Madrid. He revolutionized the clubs philosophy to the one he followed being a player of Atletico, a memorable stint in which he won the Liga and Copa Del Rey double in 1995-1996 season.
Simeone led atletico to their second Europa league title in three years as they reached the finals to face Athletic club Bilbao 3-0. The star of the show was none other than Radamel Falcao. Again qualifying for the UEFA Supercup, Atletico defeated the then reigning Champions League winners Chelsea by 4-1 which included a hat trick from Falcao. On 16th May, 2013 Atletico beat Real Madrid 2-1 to win the Copa Del Rey title. It was quite a tense match as the match finished with both team having only ten men on the field. The 2012-2013 season saw Atleti finish with 3 trophies.
The following year, Atleti made an unbeaten run into the Champion’s League Final being in a group including FC Zenit, FC Porto and Austria Wein and meeting AC Milan, FC Barcelona and Chelsea in the knock out rounds. The final saw them facing their city rivals Real Madrid in the Estadio Da Luz in Lisbon. Atleti went into the lead with a Diego Godin header. But a very late equalizer from Sergio Ramos saw them fall apart and they finished the game losing 4-1 at the end of extra time.
The same year however, Atleti won the La Liga by drawing the game against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, Diego Godin again was the scorer of the important equalizer that helped them seal the game as a draw and win the Liga on Goal difference. Atleti trounced their derby rivals in both the legs in the Liga.
Diego Costa was the hero of the season who unfortunately missed out playing the entire final due to an injury. Thibaut Curtois who shined at the Calderon during his loan spell from Chelsea established himself as a world class goalkeeper in the 2013-2014 season. He was called back by Chelsea in 2014 to play for the first team.
‘El Nino’ Fernando Torres has returned to his holy home at the Vicente Calderon and is looking to steer Atletico Madrid to newer heights in the upcoming season.
THE MADRID DERBY:
The tensions between these two clubs date back to the Franco era. Where Franco’s preference originally was Atleti, he chose Real Madrid later as Real Madrid had become an established club with time. This led to Atleti fans have a slight disregard for Real Madrid as they regarded it a Government club.
The fixture between Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid is famous as the Madrid derby and in the recent years it has been very hotly contested by both the sides.
Winners (10 times): 1939–40, 1940–41, 1949–50, 1950–51, 1965–66, 1969–70, 1972–73, 1976–77, 1995–96, 2013–14
Runners-up (8 times): 1943–44, 1957–58, 1960–61, 1962–63, 1964–65, 1973–74, 1984–85, 1990–91
Copa del Rey:
Winners (10 times): 1959–60, 1960–61, 1964–65, 1971–72, 1975–76, 1984–85, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1995–96, 2012–13
Runners-up (9 times): 1921, 1926, 1956, 1963–64, 1974–75, 1986–87, 1998–99, 1999-00, 2009–10
Supercopa de España:
Winners (2 times): 1985, 2014
Runners-up (4 times): 1991, 1992, 1996, 2013
Copa de Campeones de España (Predecessor to the Supercopa de España):
Winners (1 time): 1940
Copa Eva Duarte (Predecessor to the Supercopa de España):
Winners (1 time): 1951
Runners-up (1 time): 1950
Copa Presidente FEF (Predecessor to the Supercopa de España):
Winners (1 time): 1947
Winners (1 time): 2001–02
Runners-up (2 times): 1932–33, 1933–34
Copa de la Liga:
Runners-up (2 times): 1983–84, 1984–85
UEFA Champions League:
Runners-up (2 times): 1973–74, 2013–14
UEFA Europa League
Winners (2 times): 2009–10, 2011–12
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup:
Winners (1 time): 1961–62
Runners-up (2 times): 1962–63, 1985–86
UEFA Super Cup:
Winners (2 times): 2010, 2012
Winners (1 time): 1974
Winners (1 time) : 1991
Campeonato Regional Centro:
Winners (4 times): 1920–21, 1924–25, 1927–28, 1939–40
Copa Federación Centro:
Winners (1 time): 1941
Atletico De Madrid has proven that Real Madrid is not the only pride of Spain’s capital city. The club has become more successful than its parent club Bilbao in the recent years. The club is also famous for producing World Class talents like Fernando Torres, Falcao, Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa who are currently shining at the top clubs across Europe. This club might not have dominated Europe across its history but with the direction things are going under Simeone, the motive is quite clear. Tactically the team prefers to play a pragmatic, physical and a ruthless game of soccer. This philosophy coupled with the presence of exceptional individual talents and the winning mentality of Simeone surely guarantees success maybe not immediately, but yes definitely.