“Obviously our budgets are not the same, but in motivation and spirit we never feel anybody can beat us.”
Diego Simeone is rightly proud of what he’s achieved as Atletico Madrid manager since taking the role in 2011, a spell that has seen the club win seven trophies. The latest of those came on Wednesday night against hated city rivals Real Madrid, as Simeone’s team triumphed 4-2 over their more glamorous counterparts in the UEFA Super Cup.
Afterwards, the Argentine club legend uttered those words to yet again offer a fierce endorsement of his team, whose success has come despite Spanish football seemingly dominated by the financial might of Real and Barcelona.
But, while what Atletico have achieved is no doubt admirable, they’ve actually spent more over the last five total transfer windows than their derby rivals.
Since the summer of 2014 – when Real beat Atletico in a dramatic Champions League final – Atletico have outspent Los Blancos by nearly £150million: an expenditure of £510.46million compared to Real’s £365.63million.
For three straight seasons, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, Atletico’s transfer expenditure topped that of Real’s by at least £50million.
This summer, the two clubs have spent nearly the same: £111.15million for Atletico, £111.83million for Real. In fact, Atletico have made the more splashy signing, getting Thomas Lemar from Monaco. Of course, that could change, with two weeks of the transfer window left and Real linked with big-money moves for the likes of Neymar and Eden Hazard.
The figures don’t account for outgoings, with Atletico usually operating under a sell to buy policy that helps fund their transfer spending. But though no policy officially exists across the city, Real have made plenty of money in sales in recent times as well. Alvaro Morata, James Rodriguez, and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, have all fetched princely sums for the club (or in James’ case, will do so soon).
There’s no doubt that a financial gap between Atletico and Spain’s big two exists – but it’s not as big as Simeone claims.
The United States is set to host a regular-season La Liga match as part of a new 15-year deal to promote the league in North America.
The league announced on Thursday that it had agreed a joint venture with Relevent, a multinational media, sports and entertainment group, the company behind the annual pre-season International Champions Cup.
La Liga said in a statement: “As part of the agreement, LaLiga plans to bring a regular season club match to the United States, the first to be played outside of Europe.”
No mention was made of a possible date or location for the match, or of which teams it might involve.
However, reports in the US said it could happen as early as this season, with Miami mentioned as a possible venue.
Stephen Ross, who owns Relevent, also owns the Miami Dolphins NFL team.
“This extraordinary joint venture is the next giant leap in growing soccer’s popularity in North America,” said Ross in a statement.
“This unique relationship will create new opportunities for millions of North American soccer fans to experience the most passionate, exciting, and highest level of soccer in the world.”
La Liga president Javier Tebas said: “We’re devoted to growing the passion for soccer around the world. This ground-breaking agreement is certain to give a major impulse to the popularity of the beautiful game in the US and Canada.
“Relevent has filled stadiums across the U.S. with the International Champions Cup, we’re thrilled to partner with them on a joint mission to grow soccer in North America.”
Julen Lopetegui’s reign started with a stutter in Tallinn as Real Madrid succumbed to an extra-time 4-2 European Super Cup defeat to city rivals Atletico.
Los Blancos recovered from a first-minute Diego Costa sucker punch through Karim Benzema and a Sergio Ramos penalty – stepping up in place of Cristiano Ronaldo – before Costa stabbed home his second and forced the game to go to the distance.
A stunner from Saul separated the two sides before Koke made the result sure for Atletico. Below are our ratings for Atleti.
ATLETICO MADRID (4-4-2)
Jan Oblak – 6: Made a great reflex save to keep out Asensio’s clever flick, but perhaps should have come off his line for the equaliser.
Juanfran – 6: Struggled against the pace of Marcelo and the trickery of Asensio, and conceded the penalty for handball. Looks like a weak link.
Stefan Savic – 6: Beaten in the air by Benzema for the equaliser. Otherwise solid and strong but will surely lose his place to Jose Gimenez.
Diego Godin – 8: Atletico’s new captain read the game perfectly and made several brilliantly timed interventions, especially a tackle on Bale on the area’s edge.
Lucas Hernandez – 6: Generally steady against Bale but was beaten in the build-up to Madrid’s first goal. Limited contribution going forward but always willing.
Thomas Lemar – 8: Settling very well with his new club, tracking back to do his defensive work and adding a spark with his dribbling skills.
Rodri – 7: Classy competitive debut for the defensive midfielder, who uses his body well to protect the ball and plays with great intelligence.
Saul Niguez – 8: Capped an all-action display in the centre of the pitch with a magnificently volleyed winner. Complete performance from a complete player.
Koke – 6: Initially struggled to keep up with the tempo, but stuck to the task and improved as the game progressed, scoring the fourth.
Antoine Griezmann – 4: Very quiet and taken off for Correa early in the second half. Understandable that he struggled on his first start since the World Cup.
Diego Costa – 8: Scored a stunning goal after 50 seconds, equalised later on and played a part in the third and fourth goals. Immense.
Angel Correa – 7: Replaced Griezmann and enlivened his team’s attack with a busy display, notably doing well to set up Costa for the equaliser.
Vitolo – 6: Came on for Rodri and added some attacking thrust with his ball skills, including a neat pass to Koke for the fourth goal.
Thomas Partey – 6: Appeared just before the end of normal time and contributed amply by finding Saul for the go-ahead extra time strike.