When it comes to Spanish football, many people nowadays are either Real Madrid or Barcelona fans, with that being due to either television exposure or readiness of their merchandise. That's what I tend to find across the pond here in America, anyway.
But surely when you think of La Liga, you have to put Atletico Madrid right up there with the two giants, no? As far as silverware won, Atletico is third behind the two super powers with titles won in 10, also the same number of Copa Del Rey victories. They have also won the Europa Cup twice in 2010, and 2012. Atleti have also helped develop a number of great strikers around the footballing world.
Let’s talk about a bygone time of Atletico’s history, right after the Spanish Civil War. When La Liga started back up again in 1939, clubs had to face the loss of players due to the war. Atletico lost nine players, so they merged with 'the future Zaragoza', to form Athletic Avacion de Madrid. The Aviation part came from when Zaragoza was formed by members of the Spanish Air Force.
In 1939/40 Atletico was put into La Liga at the expense of Real Oviedo. They were led by Ricardo Zamora, who would lead the club to back-to-back La Liga titles. Those would be his only two titles as a manager, in a career that would span until 1961, with three spells at Celta, and two at Espanyol.
The club was blessed in those years by an excellent midfield of German Gomez, who had just joined from Racing Santander, Machin and Ramon Gabilondo. However, the government, after 1941, banned all clubs from using foreign names, and six years later the club changed its name to what they go by now. That year was also a great year for the cross town rivalry as they beat Real Madrid 5-0, their biggest win in the derby to date.
Their next glorious period for Atleti was in the 1950s and 1960s. Helenio Herrera came to Madrid and won another two La Liga titles in 1950 and 1951. However, Herrera would end up leaving the club in 1953, relegating them to battle BIlbao as the third club behind Real Madrid and Barcelona. Then, at the start of the 60s, ex-Real Madrid manager Jose Villalonga came in and made the club a power again. They defeated Real in consecutive Copa Del Rey’s in 1960 and 1961.
The second Copa launched them into a different stratosphere, when they ran riot and sealed victory in the 1962 European Cup Winners Cup beating Fiorentina 3-0 after a replay. The first leg was played on May 10th at Hampden Park in Glasgow, where Joaquin Peiro scored in the 11th minute. Unfortunately, Florentina came back later in the half, with Kurt Hamrin firing home a goal to leave the first leg nicely poised at 1-1. The replay would come later in the year on September 5th, in Stuttgart, where Atletico would smash Florentina 3-0, as Jones, Jorge Mendonca and Peiro would all score to lift another trophy for the red side of Madrid.
In short, Atletico have a great history and are now looking to create their own again in the modern era. They're a great club and I have developed a soft spot for them.
Before someone tells you that La Liga is boring, and a two-club league, take a look at the history of the division, just like I did, and you’ll see many clubs like Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, and plenty of others, have a rich history which make it a very interesting league to follow. I always used to question Spanish football, but not anymore.