The old saying about always being the bridesmaid and never being the bride is not really appropriate. Atlético Madrid, after all, have won the Spanish league five times in the last 50 years; The Copa del Rey nine times; The old European Cup Winners Cup (they have been runner up twice as well) and even reached a European Cup final in 1974.
It also is not appropriate because, in the last few years, Atlético have hardly been the bridesmaid. More like the pretty, frivolous girl everyone likes but you would not have as a bridesmaid because you just know she would do something really stupid to mess it all up come the big day. You see, every season the longsuffering, and truly loyal, supporters have to watch a team that puts in displays of laughter brilliance one week and then follow it up by giving the appearance of not quite knowing what it is they were supposed to be doing on That football pitch out there. Inconsistent is much too kind a word for the dear old Colchoneros – mattress makers to you and me.
Most British fans will likely associate Atlético Madrid with three very dissimilar names – Fernando Torres, Jesus Gil and Ron Atkinson; A genius, a crook and you can fill the last one in for yourself!
Fernando Torres, of course, was Atlético for a long time. The club's youngest ever league player, goalscorer and captain was was more than just a talisman for the fans and the team; He was proof that Atlético was a force in the land. Even now, after becoming such a worldwide star at Liverpool, he still says that he hopes one day to be able to return to his beloved Madrid team. Indeed, after helping humiliate Real Madrid in last season's Champions' League, Torres stated that he hoped the Atlético fans had enjoyed it as much as he had!
Jesus Gil is remembered for very different reasons. The mayor of Marbella and owner / president of Atlético, Gil somehow kept the club financially secure for years – and, for most of the time, kept himself out of jail as well. A literally larger than life character, Gil did not just know every trick in the book – he knew all those that daren't put in it!
And Ron Atkinson? Well, he was one of Gil's 16 different coach / managers – thinking just three months after leaving his job at West Bromwich Albion to go to Spain. At least he probably got a real tan then!
So now the fans of this Madrid team await the new season with more than a little trepidation. Diego Forlan, such a peripheral figure at Manchester United, has had five fabulous seasons in Spain – sharp, inventive and scorer of 102 goals in 175 league games. Playing alongside Sergio Aguero (Maradona's son-in-law), this has been arguably the best twin striker partnership in the country. All summer, the speculation has been an incantant about where both of these players might end up playing their football during 2009/10. Atlético fans are sometimes unkindly referred to as Las Pupas, the cry babies. If either of these two players do end up leaving, then the headline writers will bring that out again, with good reason.
As things stand today, the club has signed the exceptionally promising Betis full back Juanito and are heading towards the play off rounds of the Champions' League – courtesy of their late surge to fourth place in last season's La Liga.
If they can hold on to their attacking stars, sometimes this year, at last, Club Atlético de Madrid followers can at last get them fitted up for a bridal.