Our new Spanish football series sees Spain Buddy’s Matthew Hirtes offering a guide to the country’s clubs. Currently, he’s working his way through the Primera Liga teams. It’s time for Atlético de Madrid’s turn under our spotlight.
Atlético de Madrid…in 90 seconds
Based in southside Madrid, the almost-always abbreviated Atlético de Madrid’s first stadium was the Ronda de Vallecas before they relocated to the Estadio Metropolitanio de Madrid in 1923. 1966 and Atlético were on the move again; to their current home of the Vicente Calderón. They’ll be upping sticks once more though in time for the 2017-18 season as they take residence in the space-agey Estadio La Peineta which would have formed the centrepiece of Madrid’s 2016 Summer Olympics had the city won the bid instead of Rio de Janeiro.
Given the celebrated history of Atlético Madrid, it comes as little surprise to discover that some truly great players have worn the classic red and white shirts. Like striker Adríán Escudero from 1945 to 1958 who, with 170 goals, is Atlético’s record scorer. Other famed forwards include Portuguese winger Paulo Futre, master of the mazy dribble, who captained Los Rojiblancos (the red and whites) to a 2-0 Copa del Rey triumph over city rivals Real Madrid in 1992. And football’s very own Peter Pan, Fernando Torres (the eternal Ñino) returned to the scene of past glories in 2015 following a spell at Chelsea which was altogether more inglorious. In terms of midfielders, one of the standout stars now manages the club. Argentina’s Diego Pablo Simeone prowls the touchline with the passion he used to display in the middle of the park. In defence, Juan Carlos Arteche employed a take-no-prisoners approach on the opposition throughout the 80s. On the goalkeeper front Abel (Resino Gómez) is Atleti’s number one, erm, number one. Predictably nicknamed El Gato (the Cat), he set a La Liga record in the 1990-91 season, unbeaten in 1,275 minutes of play.
They might have started off as an exiled youth team of Athletic Club Bilbao by Basque students based in Madrid, but Atlético have forged a capital identity all of their very own. They’re 10-time winners of both the Copa del Rey and La Liga. Their European record is none too shabby either, following up their two recent UEFA Europa League final wins with a pair of UEFA Super Cups.
Club-Shop Essential Purchase
Q: What’s coloured red and white and helps your teeth stay bright? A: An Atleti electric toothbrush.
Buy this bathroom accessory HERE.
There’s the odd plate of this or that to share plus beer on tap, but you go to Bar El Doblete for one main reason: to drink in the Atlético atmosphere prior to/after a home fixture or big away game. Conveniently located under the Vicente Calderón, this legendary bar is a recommended pre-/post-match rendezvous.
Atleti fans are some of the most committed in the Spanish game. Some might say over-committed as the predominately right-wing loyalties of their ultras sometimes spill over into violence, particularly if they’re playing Athletic Bilbao or Sevilla whose Herri Norte Tadea and Biris Norte favour a left-wing ideology. Famous Atlético supporters include actors Javier Bardem and Will Smith, the king of Spain Felipe VI, and journalist (and wife of former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas) Sara Carbonero.
The club hymn is one jaunty number. “Atleti, Atleti, Atlético de Madrid,”, it conservatively begins before breaking into a cantering verse about “competing like brothers defending the colours”. This is a favourite on the in-stadium human jukebox, as it’s sung before the game starts, when a goal is scored, and after the match too.
Damage to Your Wallet
Theoretically, Atleti tickets should be easier to come by when the club move to the Estadio La Peineta as the capacity will be increased by a shade over 15,000. At the Vicente Calderón, Atlético vary their entrance fees to match the occasion; with match-day tickets for the upcoming Copa del Rey tie with minnows Guijuelo going for as little as €5 for members and €10 for non-members. Bear in mind, however, that should the opposition be, say, Barcelona then the lowest price starts at €70 for members and €90 for non-members.
Matthew Hirtes, our resident broadsheet journalist, moved to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria back in 2004. He’s travelled extensively through Spain, covering it for such publications as Telegraph Travel, Metro, and The Independent. The author of Going Local in Gran Canaria: How To Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home, Matthew truly is a resident expert.