Atlético Madrid – Going Global

Three days behind the scenes at Madrid's historic football club, for the FT Weekend Magazine.

'Scrappy, passionate and competing with Europe's elite, Atletico Madrid are determined to punch above their weight"

Working alongside FT correspondent Simon Kuper, I spent 3 days behind the scenes at Atletico Madrid, the traditional underdogs who in recent seasons have been challenging Barcelona and Real Madrid for domestic and European success.

Antoine Griezmann is a French footballer, signed by Atlético Madrid in July 2014 for €30million.

Early in his career he was considered too small to be a professional footballer, but has proved his doubters wrong with a mix of skill, mobility and athleticism combined with an impressive goal scoring record.

Belgian footballer Yannick Carrasco was signed by Atlético Madrid from Monaco in July 2015.

A dynamic attacking winger, Carrasco scored in the final of the Champions League but ended up on the losing team as Atléti lost on penalties to hometown rivals Real Madrid.

In the summer of 2017, Atléti are due to leave the Vicente Calderón Stadium and move to a new home on the outskirts of Madrid.

The Estadio La Peineta has a long and chequered history. Originally an athletics stadium, it was first completed in 1994, with the intention that it would be the centrepiece of a Madrid Olympics. However by 2004, midway through three failed Olympic bids, the stadium was closed.

An agreement was reached with the Madrid government in 2007 that would see Atletico Madrid renovate and eventually move into the stadium.

Miguel Ángel Gil Marín is the CEO and Director of Atlético Madrid.

Son of the notorious and controversial former owner Jesús Gil, Miguel Ángel has forged his own path and is now the longest serving club owner in Spanish football.

Diego Simeone is Atléti's totemic Argentinean manager.

Simeone is also a former Atléti player. As a key member of the team that won the league and cup double in 1995-6, he cemented his iconic status amongst supporters. This status was only enhanced when he returned in 2003 to finish his European playing career in Madrid.

Simeone was appointed as Atléti's manager in 2011, and has been a huge success with his charismatic touchline style matched with an ability to bring the best out of his squad. In winning La Liga in 2013/14, Atletico collected 90 points, surpassing their previous record of 87 in the 1995/6 season.

The Fondo Sur Ultras, also known as the ‘Frente Atlético’, gather in the ‘Fondo Sur’ section of the stadium during every home match.

The organisation dates back to the construction of this part of the stadium in 1968. They are believed to have links to the far right, and a minority are involved in violence, which culminated last year when battles between the Frente Atlético and visiting Ultras from Deportivo A Coruna resulted in the death of a Deportivo fan.

The Ultras are however a key part of the atmosphere at the Calderon. They chant a variety of club songs throughout the game, led by drummers and a ‘conductor’ who uses a loudspeaker system that is a permanent part of the stadium infrastructure.

As the final whistle approaches, club favourite Fernando Torres smiles at Atléti fans from the home team dugout. Atléti went on to win the game 2-1, but ultimately finished 3rd in the La Liga table and were unable to defend their 2014/15 title.