Competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid for the La Liga title each year is never easy for Atletico Madrid.
They simply can’t compete with the money being spent by the two Spanish giants, while the lure of playing at the Vincente Calderon isn’t quite as great as playing at the Bernabeu and Camp Nou.
However, through a combination of astute signings and an impressive academy, Atletico have been able to challenge with Barca and Madrid in recent years thanks to the wealth of talent in their squad.
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They managed to win the title during the 2013/14 campaign and look set to run the two clubs close once again this time around. They’ve also reached the final of the Champions League in both the 2013/14 season and the 2015/16 season - losing to Real Madrid on both occasions.
While their starting line-up is pretty strong today, they’ve also lost several brilliant players to big European clubs. Therefore, we’ve created an XI if they hadn’t sold any of their players since 2011.
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Of course, we’re well aware that there was no chance of Atletico realistically keeping hold of all these players but we thought it would just be interesting to see the quality that they’ve had in their side in recent years.
Here is what their side would look like right now - and it’s pretty impressive.
Goalkeeper | David de Gea
David de Gea was only with the Atletico Madrid senior side for one-and-a-half seasons but he impressed so much that Manchester United decided to fork out £17.8 million on him. While it looked to be a waste of money in his early days at Old Trafford, he has since established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in world football.
Right-back | Juanfran
He may have missed the crucial penalty in last season’s Champions League final but Juanfran is a hero at Atleti. He’s been brilliant at right-back for five-and-a-half campaigns for the club, making 251 appearances during that time.
Left-back | Filipe Luis
You’ll probably understand why we’re happy to keep some current Atletico defenders in this XI given their incredible defensive record. It may not have worked out for Filipe Luis at Chelsea, but he has been sensational for Diego Simeone’s side since signing in 2010.
Centre-back | Diego Godin
One of the best centre-backs in world football - although he’s not always given the credit he deserves. The Uruguayan has made 258 appearances at the club, helping them to win the league in 2014 with a header against Barcelona on the final day of the season. At the age of 30, Atleti fans must be fearing the day he retires.
Centre-back | Toby Alderweireld
Although Atletico’s defence is extremely solid right now, imagine it with Toby Alderweireld alongside Godin. You may be surprised to discover that he only played 12 league matches for Atletico before moving to Southampton on loan during the 2014/15 season. They probably regret getting rid of him so easily.
Midfield | Arda Turan
Now at Barcelona, Arda Turan was simply brilliant for Atletico. During his four seasons at the club, the Turkey international was one of the best midfielders in the league and earned a €34 million move to the Nou Camp with his dazzling displays.
Midfield | Yannick Carrasco
We thought we’d instil a bit of youth into the line-up in the form of 23-year-old Carrasco. The Belgian was signed from Monaco for €20 million at the start of last season and appears to have a very bright future. He scored the equaliser in last season’s Champions League final and was a threat after coming on at half-time.
Midfield | Koke
Another current player in this XI. It’s incredible to think that Koke has made 268 appearances for Atletico at the age of 24. He’s also been capped 28 times by Spain already. Atletico may have a tough task to stave off the interest from the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the coming years.
Striker | Sergio Aguero
Atletico have produced some incredible strikers in the past - highlighted by the fact that Diego Forlan, David Villa and Falcao can’t make this line-up. But we think you’ll agree these three are fully deserving of their spot.
First up is Sergio Aguero. He scored more than 100 goals for the Spanish club in his five seasons before moving to Manchester City. He has since become one of the best strikers in the world with 147 goals in 214 matches for the Citizens.
Striker | Fernando Torres
Some people may remember Fernando Torres’ career for his disastrous spell at Chelsea. However, he was a hero at the Vicente Calderon and was named club captain at the age of 19. He moved to Liverpool following seven campaigns at Atletico but returned home in 2014 on a loan spell. He has since made his move back to Atletico permanent and, while he’s not quite as prolific as he once was, he’s still a legend at the club.
Striker | Diego Costa
Diego Costa was signed as a back-up to Aguero and Forlan from Valladolid back in 2010 before moving to Rayo Vallecano on loan for the 2011/12. Upon his return, though, Costa was in incredible form and scored 56 goals in the two seasons that earned him a move to Chelsea. He has been heavily linked with a move back to the club at some point in the future.