From ‘people’s team’ to pioneer of the Super League, how Atlético de Madrid changed the world

crumbs This is what, more or less, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid leave to the rest of the Spanish football scene. Traditionally the third club in the kingdom, Atlético de Madrid has been playing in the big leagues for a decade. Twice crowned in seven years, ‘Atléti’ failed twice in the Champions League final, in 2014 and 2016. The Madrid club is once again in the quarterfinals of the competition, against Manchester City, on Wednesday 13 April (1-0 for the first leg Skyblues). At the same time, this “popular club”as love So much to remember manager Diego Simeone, he has taken a sharp turn that threatens his singular identity. Is it hopeless?

Atlético is not just a football team, it is a feeling.”explained the former star red and white Fernando Torres, in an interview for Sofoot in 2009. Founded at the beginning of the 20th century, the club has historically been based on strong local and popular roots. “It is the team of workers. Taking into account the situation in the country, seeing the players give life in each action increases the identification of the public”, noted in 2014 Gabicaptain of the colchoneros when Spain suffered the effects of the subprime crisis.

The opposition with a Real Madrid considered “elitist” -although King Felipe VI openly supports Atlétida- gives rise, in reality, to a social fracture more than a political one. Often accused of having been protected by Franco’s power, the club has a fringe of followers categorized as far right. In 2014, the Frente Atlético group was expelled from the stadium after one of its members beat a Riazor Blues member to deathan ultra team from Deportivo that claims to be on the far left. UEFA has also closed part of the Wanda Metropolitano against Manchester Cityafter footage showed club fans giving Nazi salutes in the first leg.

But unlike Rayo Vallecano, a team from the popular neighborhood of Vallecas with a clear left-wing image, “the club doesn’t really have a political image”, points out Fran Castillo, a journalist specialized in Atlético. From this area in the south of Madrid, Captain Koke is precisely from there. He as a person embodies this identity. mattress. In 2017 he extended his lease for seven years, an exceptional period.

“When I was young I used to go to the stadium with my grandfather, my brother and my father”remember for review Free. The venue in question, the seething Vicente-Calderón, has literally disappeared. Theater of many European glories, its unique architecture as well as the proximity of the stands to the grass made it a unique volcano. Since 2017, Atlético has been playing at the Wanda Metropolitano, an ultra-modern venue with 68,000 seats far from the city center, when the Calderón was a quarter of an hour’s walk from Puerta del Sol.

“The change of stadium was very radical for many fans. But the Metropolitano has already had historic games and is recovering, little by little, the atmosphere of the Calderón”.

Fran Castillo, journalist specialized in Atlético

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Quique, an inveterate supporter of the mattress makers, confirms it for us: “I preferred the Calderon. But the Wanda is a symbol of the new image of the club, which is no longer a ‘neighborhood team'”.. This move was accompanied by a logo change denounced by some of the people. red and white. “No one expected it”, confirms Fran Castillo. The pill struggled to get through, to the point that stores were raided when a T-shirt bearing the old coat of arms was released in January.

Uprooted, Atlético was even more so as it was one of the founding members of the SuperliEuropean gue, last April. “I was very surprised”Fran Castillo recalls. numerous rocks (supporter groups) have expressed distrust of the project, forcing the club to backtrack on the order. It goes without saying that this closed league project between the richest teams in Europe is at odds with the values ​​that this club defends. In this little game, the soft statements of the emblematic Diego Simeone (“Our club will make the best decision for its future”) had disappointed more than one.

Does this mean that these values ​​are just a mirage? “cholo” Simeone gave part of the answer in 2019: “You can’t claim people when you have one of the best stadiums in the world or when you buy a player for 120 million euros.he told La Nación, in reference to the transfer of the young Portuguese João Félix. But we can still say that socially, morally and emotionally, we are still the people’s team. Those are our roots, the club will not change them despite its economic growth.”

The salary of the Argentine coach still tempers his own words: he is one of the highest paid coaches on the planet. His style of play, based on great defensive rigor and relentless intensity, annoys. The Argentine is regularly questioned, despite a successful tenure. His character and his aggressiveness fit perfectly with the identity of Atlético, where he also played in the 90s.

Above all, in modern football where transfers abound, many players remain faithful to the shirt. red and white. The unstoppable José Maria Giménez, Koke and Jan Oblak, for example, have been there for a decade. In any case, Atlético continues as it is despite all these changes.concludes Fran Castillo. The very essence of the club continues, even though it is now world-renowned.”

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