The summer transfer of Radamel Falcao from Atletico Madrid to AS Monaco has been well documented. The world class striker was sold to the French club for £52.8 million ($85.4 million).
Over the course of two seasons with the Spanish club, Falcao had scored 52 goals in 67 appearances and helped the club win the 2012 Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, and the Copa Del Rey. He scored a brace in the Europa League final, a hat-trick in the UEFA Super Cup final, and was a key figure as Atletico ended a 14-year (25 match) winless streak to Real Madrid in the El Derbi Madrileño.
Losing a player of this magnitude would devastate most clubs. But Atletico has never spent time crying over spilled milk. They continually accept the changes to their squad and develop continuation plans for the immediate future. Atletico’s blueprint for success has been to utilize the strength of their youth academy, while identifying talent at other clubs and reinvesting monies earned from transfer fees.
Atletico Madrid is currently in second place in La Liga, and five points clear of their bitter local rivals, Real Madrid. They have won nine times in ten matches. And along the way, they walked into the Santiago Bernabeu for the second time in less than four months and beat Real Madrid, 1-0. Their only loss of the season was a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat to Espanyol, which was the direct result of an unfortunate own goal.
During this Sunday’s 5-0 thrashing of Real Betis, Atletico Madrid introduced 18-year-old Óliver Torres to the starting lineup. The young midfielder had only made a handful of substitution appearances prior to the match. But he wasted no time in introducing himself as a starter when he scored the first goal of the match in thirteen seconds.
If Los Rojiblancos’ recent history holds true, the 18-year-old will be the target of top European clubs over the next few months.
Eleven years ago, Atletico Madrid had just earned promotion from the Segunda División (the second tier of Spanish football) to La Liga. That season they would finish in eleventh place in the Primera División, and would introduce an 18-year-old striker to the world, Fernando Torres. El Nino would finish that season with 13 goals in 29 appearances.
The young Spanish striker had already caught the eye of Roman Abramovich, who had just become the owner of Chelsea Football Club. The Russian billionaire made a £28 million bid ($45.3 million) for the player but had it rejected by the Atletico Madrid board. The club was in no hurry to cash in on the player.