Atlético Madrid are not be the most glamorous team in La Liga, especially when compared with the well-groomed Adonis’s that are Real Madrid and Barcelona.
For years the two super-clubs have been the apples of everyone’s La Liga eye. But this has allowed ‘lesser’ known teams such as Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao to slip under the European Radar, slowly growing in stature, slowly taking Europe by storm.
English fans have only just realised the power of these Spanish-sleepers however. It was when Bilbao demolished Manchester United 5-3 in the Europa League that many began to take note. This note taking was reinforced when Atlético Madrid put four past European champions Chelsea in the Super Cup. Suddenly, people thought to themselves: ‘hang on maybe there are more than two Spanish teams.’
Atlético Madrid met their Spanish counter parts, Bilbao in the final of Europa League last year. Los Indios slaughtered their Basque counterparts 3-0, with Radamel Falcao grabbing a familiar brace and Brazilian attacking midfielder Diego landing the decisive third blow.
But this has allowed ‘lesser’ known teams such as Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao to slip under the European Radar
This was Madrid’s second Europa League trophy in as many years, and really laid down a marker of dominance over the smaller European sides. But they have not suddenly sprung up from the dust. In 1995 they won the domestic double and in 2001 they again lifted the League trophy. Since then though they have quietly gone about their business, floating in mid-table.
Yet, while they may not have been hoarding silverware, they have been producing and unearthing a steady stream of incredibly talented footballers, particularly when it comes to strikers
Fernando Torres started the phenomenon off. The front-man emerged through the ranks at Atletico and grew into a crucial first team player scoring 91 goals in 243 appearances. But when big spending Liverpool came sniffing, Madrid were powerless to stop the English club landing the Spanish-starlet for a whopping £20m.
This didn’t dampen their spirits however and they moved quickly to bring in a replacement. This replacement was a well-known Uruguayan named Diego Forlan. The Uruguayan had moved from his famous dark days in Manchester to the sunny shores of Spain and Villarreal three years earlier. He had bagged an impressive 54 goals in 106 games, before finally opting to move to Madrid as a ready made El Nino replacement.
But when big spending Liverpool came sniffing, Madrid were powerless to stop the English club landing the Spanish-starlet for a whopping £20m
Alongside Forlan was an Argentine striker that had moved to Atlético a year before Torres’ departure in 2006. Said Argentine was named Sergio Aguero, who had been silently growing and developing in the shadow of the Spanish forward.
The two partnered each other for the duration of 2007-11 period and both netted 74 goals, with Aguero doing so in 175 games and Forlan just 134. When the pair left in 2011 for Manchester City and Inter Milan respectively many thought that Atlético’s stream of goal-scorers would dry up.
This was not the case. Radamel Falcao had been plying his trade in Portugal and had begun to turn the heads with his goal getting nature. In his two years with FC Porto, he netted an astonishing 41 goals in 51 games. Atlético Madrid decided to snap him up in 2011 and since then he has been nothing less than prolific, tallying up 33 goals in 41 games, he doesn’t look like stopping.
If you didn’t know who the Columbian was already, his performance in the Super Cup really was unbelievable. He became the first player in history to score a hat trick in the final; the fact that it was against Chelsea and in just 45 minutes was even more astounding.
The two partnered each other for the duration of 2007-11 period and both netted 74 goals, with Aguero doing so in 175 games and Forlan just 134
Already big clubs are sniffing around the Colombian wizard. Manchester City and Chelsea are rumored to be ready to battle it out for his services, but if you’re an Atlético fan you can’t be too worried? Torres, Aguero, Forlan and now Falcao, it’s a pretty sure thing you’ll unearth a rough diamond isn’t it?
So just how do they do it? Their scouting program is extensive; spreading across the globe they have a network searching for talent. South-America seems to be their main area of expertise. Past players Forlan and Aguero coupled with currents Falcao, Diego Godin and Christian Rodriguez all stem from South Cone roots.
The ability to entice a superb crop of foreigners coupled with their strong youth system means that Atlético Madrid are really becoming a force to be reckoned with. Fernando Torres is a fine example of how Madrid’s youth system is in slick working order.
As more of their academy stars begin to gain first team recognition, many in Europe are starting to consider them less of a silent assassin and more a rumbling tank, changing into gear, ready to steam roll Europe.
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