Though they are the defending Spanish champions, Atlético Madrid are very much the No. 3 team in Spain’s La Liga. Still, they are a big club with a rich history and remodeled stadium in an amazing city. So let’s take a look at Atlético Madrid.
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Introduction to Club Atlético de Madrid
It seems many European football leagues have their “Big Six” or “Big Four” — teams that constantly find themselves at the top of the table.
Spain’s La Liga has a very clear “Big Three.” Since the 2012-13 season, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid have comprised the top three in the final standings each season.
Atlético have the third most La Liga titles with 11, behind Real Madrid (34) and Barcelona (26), and they were the Champions League runners-up in 1974, 2014 and 2016. In the last two of those they lost to … Real Madrid!
In April 2021, the club was valued at $1 billion, and brought in a revenue of $368 million the prior season.
The home kits are one of the most recognizable uniform combos in the world, with their red and white vertical striped shirts, blue shorts, and blue and red socks. That combination has been used since 1911.
History of Atlético Madrid
The club was formed in 1903 by students in Madrid who saw the new club as a youth branch to their childhood team, Athletic Bilbao. In 1911, the club started to break away from Bilbao, and formed its own identity with its now famous kit. But Bilbao still used ‘loaned’ players from Madrid to find success.
In 1921, Atlético Madrid became independent of parent-club Athletic Bilbao and moved into a 35,600-seat stadium. Success came early; they were Copa del Rey runners-up in 1921. In 1928, they were invited to join the Primera Division in the inaugural La Liga played the following year.
During World War II, the club merged with Aviacion Nacional which had been founded in 1939 by members of the Spanish Air Force, and became Athletic Aviacion de Madrid. The merger led to back-to-back La Liga titles in 1939-40 and 1940-41, the first in club history. In 1947, the club dropped the military association and settled on its current name of Club Atlético de Madrid.
After the changes, Atlético once again claimed back-to-back La Liga titles in 1949-50 and 1950-51 under famed manager Helenio Herrera (who won a total of four La Liga titles and three Italian Serie A titles).
It would be 15 years before they raised the trophy again in 1965-66, and a span of three titles in eight seasons followed (between 1970-77).
Then the winning ways started to dwindle. The youth academy was closed in 1992, and Atlético avoided relegation with a draw on the final day of the 1994-95 season. It wasn’t until 1995-96 they raised the trophy again, 19 years since their last title.
Relegation did come following the 1999-2000 season with a 19th place finish, after playing 63 consecutive seasons in La Liga. After two seasons in the Segunda Division, Atlético were promoted for the 2002-03 campaign.
Atlético have found success in La Liga since 2012-13, never finishing lower than third place (for eight straight Champions League appearances) and winning a pair of La Liga titles (2014, 2021).
Much of that success is owed to their manager, Diego Simeone, an Argentine who played five seasons for the club in two stretches and has been manager since 2011 — an extremely rare stretch for a modern-day manager.
Atlético Madrid’s Stadium, Wanda Metropolitano
Metropolitano Stadium, called Wanda Metropolitano for sponsorship reasons, has been the home venue of Atlético Madrid since the 2017-18 season. The stadium currently has a capacity of 68,456 and originally opened in 1994. So, despite Atlético Madrid moving in for the 2017-18 season, it is not a new stadium, but was renovated for a cost of €240 million ($283 million) for their arrival.
In fact, when the stadium first opened it had a capacity of just 20,000 as a single-tier oval-shaped stadium. The stadium was used for minor sports and cultural events during its first decade. It was ultimately closed in 2004, and Atlético Madrid took over ownership in 2013 to start the renovations.
Atlético Madrid called Vicente Calderon Stadium their home from 1966-2017, and that stadium was torn down in 2019.
Atlético Madrid’s Biggest Rivals
When you share a city with one of the biggest and most successful European clubs (Real Madrid) how can they not be a rival? Historically, Real Madrid have been viewed as the establishment club, while Atlético Madrid have been less glamorous and played with more of a sense of rebellion. That rebellion comes from the days when Spain’s own government called Real Madrid “the best embassy we ever had.”
With more success recently, Atlético Madrid have also formed a heated rivalry with Spain’s other football giant, Barcelona. Atlético Madrid beat their rivals in the 2016 Champions League knockout stage.
Learn More about Atlético Madrid
Here are a couple of books on Amazon that will help you learn more about the club:
The City of Madrid
Madrid is a top international tourist destination. Located in the center of Spain, it is the capital and most-populated city in the country. Madrid is also the second-largest city in the European Union, only surpassed by Berlin.
There are countless architectural marvels to visit while in Madrid, and the Prado Museum and the National Palace are at the top of all must-see lists.
Barcelona is about a three-hour train ride down to the southeast corner of Spain. And for those groundhoppers who want to travel from London to Madrid, roundtrip airfare can be found for under $200.
Here’s our travel guru, Rick Steves, with more:
How to Watch La Liga on TV in the USA
Getting Tickets From Atlético Madrid
The club sells tickets directly from their website.
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