Torres, Aguero, Forlan, Falcao, Costa. Between them, 455 goals in the red and white stripes of Atletico Madrid. But who has been the best?
Fernando Torres, the only player on the list to have risen through the Atletico youth ranks. Scoring an impressive 82 goals in 214 appearances for the, at the time, struggling club is a record not to be scoffed at. At the age of 19, he was made club captain by, manager at the time, Gregorio Manzano, months after the club turned down a £28 million bid for the young gem.
The impact Fernando had on The Mattress Makers was massive. He aided them to promotion from the Segunda Division, and captained Atletico to their first European Final since the 1986 UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup Final. Even in his departure El Nino brought massive benefit to Atletico Madrid. His transfer to Liverpool in 2007 for a reported £25million plus Luis Garcia, would have had untold financial benefits for a club struggling to compete at the top of La Liga.
Torres went on to score 20 goals in his first season for The Reds, the first player to do so since Robbie Fowler in the 1995-96 season. The hefty transfer fee also allowed them the money to buy Diego Forlan from Villarreal.
Joining Atletico Madrid arguably in the prime of his career, 27-year-old Forlan appeared the perfect, instant effect replacement for Fernando Torres. Scoring 54 goals in 106 appearances for Villarreal, Forlan appeared the ideal replacement for El Nino.
The blonde haired striker’s goal record had seen him win the Pichichi Trophy twice (The only other player to accomplish this feet is Brazilian legend, Ronaldo). Forlan instantly endeared himself to the Atleti faithful, scoring 23 goals in a season which saw Atletico qualify for the Champions League for the first time in over a decade.
The Uruguayan maestro ended his second season with an impressive 32 goals in 33 games. This season also saw him win his record equalling second Pichichi Trophy. The 2009-10 season that followed was arguably Forlan’s most successful to date.
Scoring 28 goals, Diego successfully lead Atletico to their first European triumph since 1962, succeeding where Torres had failed. He scored six goals in the process, including the winner in a 2-1, man of the match performance in the final against Premier League Fulham.
It must also be remembered, that for much of Forlan’s career he was the set piece taker. Free kicks and corners were his domain, so you can add many assists to the Uruguayan’s name as well. Unfortunately, Forlan’s final season in Madrid more fizzled out, than go off with a bang. Scoring a mere ten goals in 42 appearances, his time was up, and he left for Inter Milan in the summer, leaving behind him magnificent memories.
Sergio Aguero, a man who will always be remembered for winning the Premier League title for Manchester City against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the 2012-13 season. But, did you know he scored goals for another team before then? 101 of them to be precise.
The Argentinian joined Atletico in the summer of 2006 from Argentine club Independiente for a reported €23 million. Javier Aguirre, manager at the time, decided not to rush Sergio into European football. Despite making 42 starts he was widely used as a substitute in his first season with only sporadic starts to his name.
Aguero finished the season with seven Atleti goals to his name, which left the more pessimistic of fans questioning the then record transfer fee paid for the teenager. But, the youngster was soon to silence his critics.
The 2007-8 season brought with it 19 goals and the birth of one of most feared strike partnerships in world football. Aguero and Forlan racked up a massive 50 goals between them (Aguero, 27 and Forlan, 23). These goals helped Atletico to their first Champions League participation in over ten years. The following two seasons brought with it 40 more Atleti goals, including his first Champions League goals in the 2008-9 campaign.
A brace against Dutch side PSV to help Atletico reach the last 16 of the tournament. It also brought with it two assists for the nippy Argentinian in a 2-1 victory over Fulham in the UEFA Cup Final in 2010. 2011 arrived with a new contract for Aguero, keeping him at the club until 2014. He celebrated his new contract with arguably his best campaign, in what ironically turned out to be his last season at the club. 27 goals were netted, equalling his best return in 2008.
In his final game for the red and whites, Aguero scored his first career hat-trick and played his 100th game in a 4-3 victory against Mallorca. Failure to properly celebrate either of his goals paved the way for an unsavoury exit from what was such a magnificent time. On the same day he signed for Manchester City, for £38million, banners were hung during a Europa League Qualifier.
They expressed the mood of a large percentage of the fans with messages like, “Aguero, We Hope You Die” painted on them. But, like Torres before him, even in exit, Aguero still managed to help his team. Money raised from his sale helped buy a fairly low key replacement…
Expectations had never been higher than when Radamel Falcao stepped onto the turf of the Vicente Calderon for the first time following a €45million move from Porto. Arriving having scored 72 goals in 87 appearances (0.8 goals per game) for the Portuguese giants, expectations were high. Atletico Madrid had smashed their transfer record to bring him here.
He needed to fire from the start. He did. Scoring an impressive, but expected, 34 goals in his first season for the Madrid side, the most goals scored in an Atletico Madrid player’s first season, including two hat-tricks and a goal in a 4-1 defeat to arch rivals, Real Madrid.
He scored twice in the Europa League Final against Athletic Bilbao to become top scorer of the competition two years running, and become the first player to ever win the competition twice in a row. Now, it is common for players to be a little bit rusty coming back from the summer break. Falcao may have been excused for taking a while to find his form. That was not the case.
A hat-trick against Champions League winners Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup was a warning shot to the world that he is going nowhere. In doing this, Falcao made yet another record, becoming the first player to score a hat-trick in the Super Cup Final. A solid run of quality goals, a lot of them match winners followed.
Now I know what you’re thinking ‘Erm, Radamel, I just wrote a whole sentence where you didn’t break a record. What’s happened?’ In December 2012, Falcao became the first La Liga player in over a decade to score five goals in a single match. Better? The Columbian mastermind netted his 200th career goal with a brace in a 5-0 drubbing of Granada, before going onto assist Diego Costa in a 2-1 Copa Del Rey Final victory over Real Madrid.
The wonderful assist smashed the perception that he was purely about goals. In his final game for Atleti, Falcao, obviously, scored in a 2-1 defeat to Barcelona. Leaving for Monaco in the summer, he departed with 70 goals in 91 appearances, giving him the best strike rate of all these recent strikers.
But what of the present? Who, of the current Atletico attackers is scoring week in, week out? Step forward Diego Costa. A man bought as back up for Aguero and Forlan having signed from Real Valladolid for less than €1million. He hardly arrived with an outrageous goal-scoring record. Nine goals in 36 appearances gave the message that he was and always will be a backup player.
He scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win at Osasuna, but picked up a serious knee injury soon after. He was loaned out to Rayo Vallencano where he scored ten goals in 16 appearances. Unfortunately, Costa’s return to his parent club coincided with the brutal form of Radamel Falcao, meaning the Brazilian had to settle for substitute appearances or the occasional partnering of Falcao.
Despite playing in the Colombians shadow, Costa still racked up 20 goals for Atletico Madrid in the 2012-13 season. It was not until Falcao’s departure that Diego took centre stage at the Vicente Calderon. This was a rare occasion, as Atletico Madrid had not replaced their star striker with a big money buy. Instead, manager Diego Simeone had faith in Costa’s ability and made him his main man.
Scoring 33 goals in 43 appearances so far in the 2013-14 season, Costa has stamped his authority on the Atletico Madrid team, and on La Liga. Sitting second in the top scorers charts, Costa has spear headed Atleti’s shocking rise to the head of the table and remain in pole position to win the title for the first time in a decade.
But, like the rest, Costa seems destined to move on in the summer, with likely destinations being Chelsea, Manchester United or even a shock move to rivals Real Madrid.
So we’ve met the players. But who comes out on top? If you are looking at loyalty, you would pick Fernando Torres. If you were looking at an all-round player, you would pick Diego Forlan. If you are looking at constant improvement, you would pick Sergio Aguero.
If consistent, relentless goal scoring is what you are looking for; Radamel Falcao is your man. And if you are looking for a fighter, someone who is willing to battle through injuries and adversity to start for his team, then Diego Costa is your man.
But, for me there is only one winner. Radamel Falcao. When you sign a striker, you are looking for three main ingredients: goals, hard work, and consistency. In his previous four seasons, Falcao has notched 30 plus goals.
When you have this man in your team you know he will score goals at similar rate to which waves wash against the shore, and that, is why he is Atletico Madrid’s best forward from the last decade. Be warned. This is not a discussion you want to start at your work.
It will go on for hours as there is such a strong case for each of these Atleti greats. The question is who will be next?
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