Atletico Madrid is a highly recognized football club globally, famous for its enthusiastic supporters and impressive performances on the field. Established in 1903, Atletico Madrid history has been eventful and spans more than a century, marked with numerous accomplishments and significant moments.
Starting as a group of students playing football in Madrid, the club has risen to become one of the strongest teams in Spain and Europe, leaving an indelible impact on the sport.
This article will take an in-depth look into the story of Atletico Madrid, examining its early days, notable events, renowned players, and significant triumphs that have contributed to its present-day status.
You can find similar articles on our website, such as Barcelona history.
Atletico Madrid History-Everything to Know about the Club
We will be covering as much as we can about the club and discuss all different sorts of matters such as Atletico Madrid badge history, Atletico Madrid Champions League history, Atletico Madrid kit history, Atletico Madrid logo history, Atletico Madrid jersey history, Atletico Madrid honors, Atletico Madrid trophies history, Atletico Madrid mascot history, Atletico Madrid stadiums, Atletico Madrid rivalries history, Atletico Madrid managers history.
When it all Began, 1903 to 1939
Atletico Madrid history dates back to its founding on April 26, 1903, by three Basque students in Madrid who established the Athletic Club Sucursal de Madrid as a youth branch of their childhood team, Athletic Bilbao.
The team began playing in blue and white halved shirts, but in 1911, the colors changed to red and white stripes that were believed to be the cheapest to make from the unused cloth used for ticking for mattresses, giving the club its nickname, Los Colchoneros.
However, another explanation is that Athletic Madrid adopted the red and white shirt after failing to find Blackburn Rovers’ blue and white kits to purchase in England and instead buying the red and white shirts of Southampton F.C.
The club moved to the Estadio Metropolitano de Madrid in 1921, built by the Compania Urbanizadora Metropolitana, and became independent of the parent club Athletic Bilbao.
In 1928, they were invited to join the inaugural La Liga and won the Campeonato del Centro three times during the 1920s. The club was managed by Fred Pentland during their debut La Liga campaign, but after two seasons, they were relegated to Segunda Division, returning briefly to La Liga in 1934 before being relegated again in 1936 after Josep Samitier took over in mid-season from Pentland.
The Merger, 1939 to 1947
In 1939, Atletico Madrid history took a significant turn when they merged with Aviacion Nacional of Zaragoza to form Athletic Aviacion de Madrid. The merger was prompted by Aviacion Nacional’s promise of a place in the Primera Division for the 1939-40 season, which was ultimately denied by the RFEF.
Rather than go through the divisional climb up, Aviacion Nacional merged with Athletic, whose team had lost several players during the Civil War, including their star player Monchin Triana, who was tragically shot dead.
In Atletico Madrid managers history, you should know that the team went on to win their first La Liga title that season under the legendary Ricardo Zamora as manager. The captain during this period was German Gomez, who was signed by Racing de Santander in 1939 and played a central role in the team’s midfield for eight consecutive seasons.
In 1940, Atletico Madrid history was marked by a decree from Francisco Franco banning the use of foreign names, leading to the team changing its name to Atletico Aviacion de Madrid.
The team won its first Super Cup in Spanish football in September 1940, and in December 1946, the military association was dropped from the team’s name, which was officially changed to its current name, Club Atletico de Madrid, on January 6th, 1947.
In 1947, Atletico Madrid achieved their biggest win over cross-town rivals Real Madrid with a 5-0 victory at the Metropolitano.
Competing with Giants, 1947 to 1965
Atletico Madrid had a prosperous period under Herrera and Benbarek, winning consecutive La Liga titles in the early 1950s. However, they fell behind Real Madrid and Barcelona after Herrera left in 1953 and spent the rest of the decade fighting for third place with Athletic Bilbao.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Atletico Madrid emerged as a strong contender, challenging Barcelona for the position of Spain’s second-best team. They won two Copa del Rey finals and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1962, continuing to dominate Spanish football by winning several La Liga titles and finishing as runners-up.
Despite Real Madrid’s supremacy, Atletico Madrid history includes beating their arch-rivals at the Bernabeu in 1965.
La Liga Champions, 1965 to 1974
During the 1970s in Atletico Madrid history, the team recruited talented Argentine players and coach Juan Carlos Lorenzo, whose discipline and cautionary methods proved successful as they won La Liga in 1973 and made it to the 1974 European Cup Final after beating Galatasaray, Dinamo Bucuresti, Red Star Belgrade, and Celtic.
Despite having Ruben Ayala, Panadero Diaz, and Quique sent off during a match against Celtic, Atletico managed a 0-0 draw, followed by a 2-0 victory in the return leg with goals from Garate and Adelardo.
However, in the Final at Heysel Stadium against Bayern Munich, despite playing above themselves and going ahead in extra time, they ultimately lost 4-0 in the replay two days later.
A New Coach, 1974 to 1987
In the aftermath of their defeat in the 1974 European Cup Final, Atletico Madrid appointed their experienced player Luis Aragones as the coach. Aragones took charge of the team on four different occasions, first from 1974 to 1980, then from 1982 to 1987, again from 1991 to 1993, and finally from 2001 to 2003.
In Atletico Madrid trophies history, Aragones led the team to their first success by winning the Intercontinental Cup in 1974 after Bayern Munich refused to participate. Aragones continued to guide the team to more victories in the Copa del Rey in 1976 and La Liga in 1977.
During his second term as coach, Aragones led Atletico Madrid to the runners-up position in La Liga and a win in the Copa del Rey in 1985, with significant contributions from Hugo Sanchez, who scored 19 league goals and won the Pichichi award. Sanchez also scored twice in the cup final, which Atletico Madrid won 2–1 against Athletic Bilbao.
Despite losing Sanchez to Real Madrid after just one season, Aragones led Atletico Madrid to further success in the Supercopa de Espana in 1985 and led them to the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1986. However, Atletico Madrid lost their third consecutive European final, 3–0 to Dynamo Kyiv. This is a significant part of Atletico Madrid history.
Gil Takes Over, 1987 to 2005
In 1987, Jesus Gil, a controversial politician and businessman, became the president of Atletico Madrid, and he remained in charge until his resignation in May 2003. During his tenure, he committed fraud by seizing 95% of the club’s shares and failing to pay a single Peseta during the forced conversion from a fan-owned club to Sociedad Anonima Deportiva in 1992.
Gil was determined to bring La Liga success to the club, and he spent heavily on expensive signings, including Paulo Futre, who had just won the European Cup with Porto. However, despite winning two consecutive Copa del Rey trophies in 1991 and 1992, the league title remained elusive.
Gil developed a ruthless reputation due to the manner in which he ran the club. He hired and fired a number of high-profile head coaches in pursuit of league success, including Cesar Luis Menotti, Ron Atkinson, Javier Clemente, Tomislav Ivic, Francisco Maturana, Alfio Basile, and club legend Luis Aragones.
In 1992, Gil closed down Atletico’s youth academy, a move that would prove significant due to Raul, a 15-year-old academy member who went across town to later achieve worldwide fame with rivals Real Madrid.
The move came as part of the overall Gil-initiated business restructuring of the club; Atletico became a Sociedad Anonima Deportiva, a corporate structure benefiting from a then-recently introduced special legal status under Spanish corporate law, allowing individuals to purchase and trade club shares.
After a managerial change and squad clearance during the summer 1995 transfer window, Atletico Madrid, somewhat unexpectedly, won the much sought-after league title in the 1995-96 season, one of Atletico Madrid honors, as newly arrived head coach Radomir Antic, with a squad including holdovers Toni, Roberto Solozabal, Delfi Geli, Juan Vizcaino, Jose Luis Caminero, Diego Simeone, and Kiko, as well as new acquisitions Milinko Pantic, Luboslav Penev, Santi Denia and Jose Francisco Molina finally delivered the title.
In Atletico Madrid Champions League history, during the next season, 1996–97, the club took part in the UEFA Champions League for the first time, but they were eliminated by Ajax in extra time in the quarter-finals. Despite winning the league title and the Copa del Rey, Gil’s overall strategy changed little, and the club continued to flounder, leading to their relegation from the Primera Division in 2000.
However, they won the Segunda Division championship in 2002 and returned to the Primera Division under Luis Aragones.
Signing Sergio Aguero, 2006 to 2009
Atletico Madrid history saw major changes in the mid-2000s as the club signed several notable players, including Portuguese midfielders Costinha and Maniche, Argentine forward Sergio Aguero, Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan, Portuguese winger Simao Sabrosa, and winger Jose Antonio Reyes.
The 2007-08 season was the most successful season for the club in the past decade, as they finished fourth in the league, qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in over a decade, and reached the quarter-final round of the Copa del Rey.
Diego Forlan was a standout player for Atletico Madrid in 2008-09, scoring 32 La Liga goals, making him the top scorer in Spain and Europe. However, the following season began poorly, and the team suffered a 4-0 loss to Chelsea in the Champions League group stage.
As a result, manager Abel Resino was let go, and Quique Sanchez Flores was brought in to lead the team for the remainder of the season. Despite the rough start to the season, Atletico Madrid remained committed to keeping their star players and reinforcing their squad for the upcoming Champions League season.
Atletico Madrid history has been marked by a series of ups and downs over the years. In October 2009, Sanchez Flores took over as coach and led the team to a Europa League victory in May 2010, beating Liverpool and Fulham along the way. This marked the first time since 1962 that Atletico had won a European title, but the team failed to perform as well in La Liga that season, finishing in ninth place.
The Super Cup, 2009-2010
During the 2009-10 season, Atletico Madrid history was rewritten with the arrival of Sanchez Flores as a coach. Although they finished in ninth position in La Liga, they made significant improvements in various competitions.
Their third-place finish in the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League group stage earned them a spot in the Europa League round of 32, which they went on to win. This victory against Fulham in the final held at HSH Nordbank Arena in Hamburg on 12 May 2010 marked the first time Atletico Madrid had claimed a European title since the 1961-62 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
In addition, they reached the Copa del Rey final but lost 2-0 to Sevilla at Camp Nou in Barcelona on 19 May 2010. Winning the Europa League qualified them for the 2010 UEFA Super Cup against Inter Milan, winners of the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League.
Atletico Madrid made history once again by winning their first UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 victory, courtesy of goals from Jose Antonio Reyes and Sergio Aguero, at Stade Louis II in Monaco on 27 August 2010.
In Good Form, 2010 to Present
Atletico Madrid history shows that they had a disappointing season in 2010-11, finishing seventh in the League and being knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey and the Europa League group stage. This led to the departure of coach Sanchez Flores before the season’s conclusion and his replacement with ex-Sevilla manager Gregorio Manzano.
However, Manzano was also replaced by Diego Simeone in December 2011 after a poor run of form in La Liga. Under Simeone’s leadership, Atletico Madrid won their second Europa League title in three years in 2012, beating Athletic Bilbao 3-0 in the final, and went on to win the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea.
The club also won the Copa del Rey in 2013 and their first La Liga title since 1996 in 2014, beating Barcelona at Camp Nou. They also reached two Champions League finals in three seasons but lost both to city rivals Real Madrid. In 2018, Atletico won their third Europa League title, and in 2021 they secured their second La Liga title in seven years.
Atletico Madrid Jersey History & Atletico Madrid Logo History
In the early days of Atletico Madrid history, the club wore blue and white colors, inspired by their parent club, Athletic Bilbao. However, both clubs switched to the now-iconic red and white stripes in 1911.
The reason for the change was the cost-effectiveness of the red and white striped shirts, as the same color combination was used to make bed mattresses, and the leftover cloth was easily converted into football jerseys.
Atletico Madrid kit history shows that since 2001, Atletico’s kit has been supplied by Nike, with the aim of challenging the dominance of their city rivals, Real Madrid’s longtime sponsor, Adidas.
Reporters Without Borders criticized Atletico Madrid’s sponsorship deal with the Azerbaijani government from 2012 to 2014, which featured the slogan “Land of Fire” on the team’s shirts. To protest the deal, the organization created a campaign visual that transformed the red and white stripes of the Atletico Madrid shirt into prison bars with the slogan “Azerbaijan, Land of Repression.”
Although the football club acknowledged that the sponsorship had political motives and aimed to enhance the image of Azerbaijan, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights urged Atletico Madrid to sever ties with the country and discontinue promoting it due to its poor human rights record. The foundation described Azerbaijan as “one of the most repressive countries in the world.”
During the 2003-4 season, Columbia Pictures sponsored the club and frequently altered the shirt sponsor’s logo, and even changed the shirt itself on occasions, such as when Spider-Man 2 was released in cinemas, causing the away shirt to be modified.
This agreement between the club and Columbia Pictures resulted in a record-breaking 16 film titles being featured on the kit, which has not been surpassed since 2022.
Atletico Madrid Stadiums and Training Grounds
The Civitas Metropolitano stadium, where Atletico Madrid plays its home matches, has an interesting history. Originally known as La Peineta and capable of accommodating only 20,000 spectators, the stadium underwent extensive renovations after Madrid’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
As a result, the capacity was increased to 68,456 seats. After the refurbishment, Atletico Madrid played its first competitive game against Malaga CF, during which Antoine Griezmann scored the club’s inaugural goal at the renovated venue. This milestone moment marked a significant chapter in Atletico Madrid history.
The Ciudad Deportiva Atletico de Madrid, located approximately 20 km west of Madrid in Majadahonda, serves as the club’s training ground. It boasts both natural and artificial turf and a gym, making it suitable for both the senior and youth teams to practice.
In addition to its training ground, Atletico Madrid also operates a sports academy at Ciudad Deportiva del Nuevo Cerro del Espino in Majadahonda. Furthermore, the club has established its first academy in Europe in Bucharest, Romania.
Atletico Madrid Rivalries History
The histories of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are distinct and contrasting. Real Madrid has been known as a proud club, with their Santiago Bernabeu stadium located in the affluent Chamartin neighborhood of northern Madrid.
In contrast, Atletico Madrid’s former home, the Vicente Calderon stadium, was situated in the central-southern Arganzuela neighborhood, 1.8 km from the city center and known for its working-class population.
Despite this, Atletico Madrid has been characterized by a sense of rebellion, or “sentimiento de rebeldia,” with a fanbase that was initially preferred by the regime during the early Francisco Franco years before preferences shifted towards Real Madrid in the 1950s.
The Franco regime attempted to utilize Real Madrid’s European Cup triumphs for political gain, with the foreign minister at the time even stating that “Real Madrid are the best embassy we ever had.” Such perceptions have contributed to the footballing identities of the city, with Atletico Madrid fans originating and frequently singing a song that criticizes Real Madrid as “the government’s team, the country’s shame.”
Despite their historical struggles against Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid finally ended a 14-year winless streak against their rivals in 2013 with a 2-1 victory in the Copa del Rey Final held at the Santiago Bernabeu. They continued their success with a 1-0 win against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu later that year, marking a significant moment in Atletico Madrid history.