As Spanish newspaper Marca continues to print stories relating to the inner capitulation at Real Madrid, neighbours Atletico have begun the season in sensational form. Los Rojiblancos are unbeaten in 12/13 and have won five consecutive games since the opening day draw with Levante and appear to seek more than another run in Europe’s secondary competition next season.
Currently holders of the Europa League, the competition serves as a reminder of their failure to secure qualification to their tournament of preference. Another crack at realistic glory following a fifth placed finish last season has been received by many with disappointment; annoyance at the possible fatigue which perhaps affected the team’s run-in last season repeating itself and hindering their push for 4th. The general consensus within the Vicente Calderon is not that Madrid are too good for the nearly men of European football, but that they are good enough to compete alongside the elite.
European competition is perceived with great importance in Spain so for Atletico to relinquish their duties would be unquestionable, especially given the financial implications. Sure, the revenue figures amount to pocket change in respect to the Champions League but the Europa League provides a competition with money Atletico cannot turn away. As the third highest earners in La Liga, Madrid also owe their fair share of cash to other creditors. Roughly €150m in debt, European progression ensures Atletico are able to maintain their charge forwards.
From the outside it is obvious that a club of Atletico’s size and stature desperately requires consistent seasons in the Champions League. The club is just too big to sip the reserves of UEFA’s prize fund. To be competitive in the transfer market and tie down talented players to the club, they must be dependent on the continent’s premier competition. Players such as Aguero, de Gea and Torres have all departed seeking greater challenges with English clubs and had branded Atletico as a selling club.
Under Diego Simeone that tag has wavered somewhat. Having clung onto Radamel Falcao during the summer the club give the impression that they are looking to build for a number of years. The Colombian presents Atletico’s greatest hope and epitomises their ambition of fighting alongside the best in Europe. Falcao is certainly that himself with 7 goals already this season, three of those against Chelsea in the Super Cup.
Atletico’s reluctance to sell Falcao demonstrates their open and renowned ambitions. As one of the best players in the world, his addition to the team makes Atletico one of the most revered teams throughout Europe. Another unsuccessful push towards the top 4 could ultimately resign Madrid to their previous status of underachievers and force the star player to depart.
That appears to have changed this season. Simeone ensured a greater focus on consistency last season as Atletico jumped from 12th to 5th under his leadership. A slight tilt in focus towards the league form this year, especially away from the Vicente Calderon, can make up for nearly making it last season. With Falcao at the helm, Thibaut Courtois in goal and talented players such as Diego Godin, Arda Turan, Adrian Lopez and Miranda alongside them in the squad, a finish outside of the top four would be considered a failure.
For me this team could win roughly 48/52 UEFA leagues and but for Real/Barca, should be dominating the contingent of fellow teams in La Liga. It is time for Atletico to make sure their finish in third place isn’t just consigned to the revenue figures.
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