The Spanish capital Madrid is home to ‘The Club of Galacticos’- Real Madrid and its ‘Poorer Cousin’- Atletico Madrid (who is not so poor in terms of quality). Real has always had an upper hand in the local rivalry until now. Almost a year ago, Real Madrid fans unveiled a banner at the Bernabeu, celebrating yet another win over Atletico which read: “Wanted, a worthy rival for a decent derby.” But now, they might be cursing themselves for doing this. (Surely they do!)
So what has changed in a team that, 12 years ago, was playing in the second division of Spanish football? What has caused a sudden resurgence in this team that has ended the Spanish league’s duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona?
1. Diego Simeone: The Gaffer
It is difficult to imagine Atletico’s success without their source of energy, their coach, an ex Atletico-player: Diego Simeone.
The Argentine inherited a squad that was 10th in the league and was facing all sorts of trouble, be it financial or technical. He led them to fifth place and Europa League glory in his first half-season. In his first full campaign, they finished third in the league and won the Copa Del Rey against arch rivals Real Madrid. They unexpectedly won the La Liga and reached UCL finals.
His lively presence in the sideline continues to boost and motivate the players. Kudos to Simeone for such an exemplary record!
2. No money? No problem!
In an era where rich owners and multi-millionaire stars have often become the identity of the club, the sight of Atletico Madrid reaching new heights is refreshing and invaluable. The summation of Atletico’s net revenue of the last 5 years is still lesser than what its rival Real capped in a single year! Still they have managed to beat them, not once, not twice, but on many occasions!
|Club||Match day (€m)||Broadcasting (€m)||Commercial (€m)||Total (€m)|
|(All data courtesy of Deloitte’s Football Money League report 2012-13)|
3. Scouting network
Atletico is a team of local superheroes. It has a tradition of identifying raw talents and nurturing them into top class players. It has all been possible because of a well-defined scouting network. World class strikers notably Kun Aguero, Fernando Torres, Diego Forlan, Falcao are all products of Atletico.
Looking for a deadly striker? Well, call Atletico maybe!
This tradition has helped the club to not only generate huge revenues in the transfer market but also to create a world class – highly competent squad at a minimal cost.
4. Transfer Policy
The club’s philosophy is not to buy superstars, but to buy those players who are capable of being gelled into its system. They have the shrewdest transfer policy in Europe. They make sure that the player bought has one trait that the club strictly demands i.e. willingness to work hard.
Their mantra- ‘Sweat plus sacrifice equals success’.
A brief look at Atletico’s Transfers since 2011-2012-
|Felipe Luis||Chelsea (€16M)|
|Demichelis||Man City (€5.5M)|
|Alvaro Dominguez||Borussia Mönchengladbach (€9M)|
|Diego costa||Chelsea (£32M)|
|David Villa||Barcelona (€3M)|
|Courtois||On loan from Chelsea|
|Mario Mandzukic||FC Bayern (€22M)|
|Antoine Griezmann||Real sociedad (€30M)|
(Source: Google images)
5. Tactics and Game Plan
Practice hard – Play strong – Love the Game – Kick some (Rich) Ass!
Their style is somewhat defensive. Clubs playing against them find themselves with time on the ball, but no room to create opportunities where they are likely to score.
The best examples of Atletico’s gameplay can be seen in last year’s UEFA Champions League where they defeated heavyweights like Chelsea (defensive), Barcelona (possession based) and Milan (FREE style- *intended pun*) to reach the finals undefeated. Tough nut to crack, aren’t they? Well ask Real Madrid if you want!
As football expert Rene Maric described, “When its defence springs into action, it presses decisively to win the ball and drive forward for high-quality shots. It maximizes its attacking opportunities and keeps its best players healthy.”
These methods have made Atletico one of the greatest teams in modern soccer history.
The rise of Atletico Madrid from Real Madrid’s shadow is quite extraordinary. Atletico’s success story will serve as an inspiration to many. The club represents an ideal harmony of teamwork, passion, efficiency and management. Its rise is an ideal success story for financially weakened clubs… VAMOS ATLETI!!!
(PS: I am a huge Real Madrid fan, so please don’t think that I am biased towards Atletico. The truth always hurts! *sighs*)
By Yash Jain