While so much attention has been placed on Barcelona’s academy system, one of the most overlooked stories of the past decade has been the incredible line of world-class strikers that have come through the Atletico Madrid system. Not all of them started their careers at the Spanish club, but the Spanish club has definitely made a difference in their careers, giving them the encouragement and experience necessary to take the next step up.
Here are four of the greats to come out of Atleti:
Fernando Torres “El Niño” 2001-2007
Torres started his soccer career at Atletico Madrid, progressing through their youth system to the first team. In 2001, under legendary Luis Aragones — Atletico’s top scorer of all time and four-time club manager — Fernando Torres earned his La Liga debut. Torres scored 75 goals in 174 La Liga appearances for Atletico Madrid.
It was his speed and technical proficiency that made him a desirable striker in the eyes of many. At Atletico, Torres proved that he was capable of world class skill. And in 2007 was on his way to Liverpool.
At Liverpool he became the fastest player in the club’s history to score 50 league goals. It was during his time at Liverpool that Torres became one of the best forwards in the game. In 2008, he was selected for FIFA World Player of the Year, eventually coming in third place only behind Ronaldo and Messi. Torres was also named in the FIFPro World XI for two successive seasons.
After a prolific goal scoring record at Liverpool, Torres joined Chelsea for a record breaking fee of £50million, which made him the most expensive Spanish player in history.
Sergio “Kun” Aguero 2006-2011
Aguero, at age 18, moved to Atletico from Argentinian side Independiente in 2006 for €23 million. At his new club, he quickly made a name for himself, becoming arguably Atletico’s most important player after Torres’s departure.
Atletico president Enrique Cerezo was very fond of Aguero’s talent, and in 2008 said:
”Every era has its best soccer player and hopefully Aguero is the best of this. He is going through a very good time and when he has the ball at his feet there is the feeling that something will happen, and always good. Does that sound like anyone familiar?”
Aguero has proved his class scoring 101 times in 234 appearances for Atletico, winning the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup in 2010. In 2011, Aguero asked for a transfer and joined Manchester City for €44 million where he made an immediate impact leading his team to win the EPL title for the first time in 44 years.
Aguero, without a doubt, is one of the highest-rated forwards in the world.
Radamel Falcao 2011-2012
In 2011, at age 25, Falcao joined Atletico Madrid from Porto for €40 million. During his first season at Atletico, Falcao helped the team win the UEFA Europa League. Falcao was the top scorer of the tournament with 12 goals. This made him top scorer in the Europa League for two years in a row, and the first player in history to win two consecutive Europa League titles with two different teams.