Atletico Madrid's home venue The recently renovated Metropolitano Stadium serves as Atletico’s home venue. (Fernandopascullo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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.

The other two Spanish giants are, of course, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

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Atletico Madrid in famous red and white

Most football fans are familiar with the red & white striped shirts. (Image: Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Atletico Madrid's uniforms in 1911

Donning the kits you see today for the first time in 1911. (Image: Unknown author, via Wikimedia Commons)

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 in the Champions League

The 2021-22 Champions League marks Atlético Madrid’s ninth straight season playing in the UCL.

They have also advanced to the group stage for the ninth straight season, and will be looking for the first team trophy in the Champions League in club history. Atlético Madrid has reached the final on three occasions, 1973-74, 2013-14 and 2015-16. Both of the most recent times they fell to fellow La Liga squad Real Madrid. Last year, Atlético Madrid fell to Chelsea in the first round of the knockout stage, 3-0.

2021-2022 Champions League Schedule

Group B – Atlético Madrid, Liverpool, AC Milan (Italy), Porto (Portugal)

Here at the matchups between Atlético Madrid and Liverpool:

Have a complete look at the 2021-22 Champions League schedule and a look at the Premier League clubs in the Champions League.

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.

la liga shirts on historic building in madrid

Pride is on the line in the Madrid Derby when Atletico face Real Madrid. (Image: LauraHale, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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

Starting with the 2021-22 season, La Liga is on ESPN+ in the United States.

Getting Tickets From Atlético Madrid

The club sells tickets directly from their website.

Buy Atlético Madrid Tickets from Groundhopper Soccer Guides

Groundhopper Soccer Guides is an official reseller of Atlético Madrid tickets and hospitality packages. Check this page for more information, or just fill out the form below, and we will be in touch!

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