Club Atlético de Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in world soccer, and as the CPL’s newest ownership group, the Spanish outfit will be able to lend its considerable expertise to the new team in Ottawa.
One area, in particular, where Ottawa will be influenced by Atlético is in developing young players.
The historic Spanish club has a long and distinguished track record of identifying Spanish youngsters, and developing them in their youth academy. Several of their youth academy stars have gone on to bigger and better things, both with Atlético and with other massive clubs from around the world.
Will Atlético be able to help some young Canadian, some diamond-in-the-rough, who will go on to take the CPL by storm? Time will only tell.
In the meantime, here’s a look at some of the best players developed by Atlético’s youth academy over the years.
Nicknamed El Niño (The Kid), Torres is one of the most famous graduates of Atlético’s academy. He joined the team’s youth setup as an 11-year-old in 1995 before making his senior team debut in 2001. One of the team’s most beloved players of all time, Torres went on to score 91 goals in 244 appearances in all competitions for Atlético before making a high-profile switch to Liverpool in 2007. He made subsequent moves to Chelsea and A.C. Milan before coming back to Atlético, helping the club win the UEFA Europa League in 2017-18. He also played a part in Spain winning Euro 2008 and 2012, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Yes, believe it or not, Real Madrid’s former all-time top scorer (before Cristiano Ronaldo came along) was once on the books at Atlético. But Raul moved to crosstown rivals Real Madrid after Atlético’s club president Jesus Gil decided to shut down the academy as a cost-saving measure. Big mistake! Raúl went on to plunder 323 goals in 741 appearances for Real Madrid from 1994 to 2010, playing a starring role in Los Blancos winning six La Liga titles and three UEFA Champions Leagues.
DAVID DE GEA
Rated as one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the moment, the current Manchester United shot-stopper joined Atlético’s youth academy as a 13-year-old, and worked his way up the ranks before making his senior team debut in 2009. He was a key part of the Atlético side that won a UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup, before being transferred to the Red Devils in 2011.
Like Raúl before him, the Madrid-born Morata was another player who slipped through Atlético’s fingers, joining Real Madrid’s youth academy in 2008 after previously playing with youth teams at Getafe, and Atlético from 2005 to 2007. Currently on loan at Atlético from Chelsea, Morata debuted for Real Madrid’s senior team in 2010, before making moves to Juventus, back to Real, and then to Chelsea. He won a pair of UEFA Champions Leagues during his two stints with Real.
The 28-year-old midfielder is 100 per cent Atlético, having joined the youth academy when he was eight years old, then made his first team debut at 19 in 2009, before being named captain last year. He’s made over 400 appearance in all competitions for Atlético, helping Los Rojiblancos win La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and two UEFA Europa League titles.
One of the finest defensive midfielders to come out of Spain, Gabi spent time with Atlético’s youth team before signing on with the senior side during the 2003-04 La Liga campaign. He was used sparingly in his first two seasons, which included a loan spell at Getafe, but he eventually gained regular playing time with Los Colchoneros before being transferred to Real Zaragoza in 2007. He transferred back to Atlético in 2011 and became a club icon in the heart of midfield, making over 350 appearances in all competitions and guiding his hometown club to a La Liga title and two UEFA Europa Leagues. Gabi moved abroad in 2018 when he signed with club Al Sadd SC in Qatar.