Atletico Madrid

6 Reasons Why Atletico Madrid Are Not on Barcelona and Real Madrid's Level Yet

Jason PettigroveContributor IMarch 6, 2014

6 Reasons Why Atletico Madrid Are Not on Barcelona and Real Madrid's Level Yet

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    Atletico have enjoyed a wonderful campaign thus far.
    Atletico have enjoyed a wonderful campaign thus far.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Atletico Madrid are enjoying a sparkling renaissance under Diego Simeone's tutelage.

    A Copa Del Rey win at the end of last season has been followed by a storming La Liga campaign, but the Rojiblancos still remain the outside bet to take the title in May.

    A slender first leg lead in their Champions League encounter against AC Milan, with the home leg to come, has given the mattress makers hopes of qualifying for their first quarter-final in the competition for 17 years, per UEFA.com

    However, there is still a niggling feeling that something is missing.

    Let's take a look at six reasons why Atletico are not yet at the level of rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid.

European Pedigree

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    Atleti hold the advantage in their Champions League tie over AC Milan.
    Atleti hold the advantage in their Champions League tie over AC Milan.Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    On the European stage, Real Madrid and Barcelona have excelled.

    Since 2006, the Blaugrana have won the Champions League on three occasions and been semi-finalists on four other occasions.

    In three of the last four seasons, Los Blancos have also reached the semi-final stage.

    Go back over the years and both clubs feature heavily in European competition.

    Atelti's record cannot be compared.

    When they secured the 2009-10 Europa League title, it was the first European trophy the mattress makers had won since the 1961-62 European Cup Winners Cup.

    Another Europa League has since been added, but Diego Simeone's men have a long way to go before they can be talked about in the same breath as either Barca or Real in Europe.

     

Financial Muscle

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    Real Madrid spent a world-record fee on Gareth Bale.
    Real Madrid spent a world-record fee on Gareth Bale.Martin Meissner/Associated Press/Associated Press

    As you would expect from La Liga's big two, the financial clout that they possess far outweighs that of their rivals.

    Based purely on incoming transfer fees alone, Atletico pale into comparison.

    Their most expensive purchase was the signing of Radamel Falcao from Porto in 2011 for a cool €47 million.

    Compare that to the world-record purchase of Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid. According to Fifa.com, Bale's price was a whopping €91 million.

    Although FCBarcelona.com reported Neymar's transfer fee as €57 million, Kieran Daley of The Independent says the true value is actually nearer €86.2 million.

Squad Depth

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    Atleti have a competitive first XI, but are lacking in squad depth.
    Atleti have a competitive first XI, but are lacking in squad depth.Gabriel Pecot/Associated Press

    Atletico Madrid's first choice XI is a collection of individuals that any manager would fall over themselves to manage.

    Diego Costa, David Villa, Koke, Arda Turan, Juanfran, Thibaut Courtois et al.

    All fantastic professionals who would complement any side in world football. Scratch the surface however, and Los Colchoneros come up short.

    Both Barcelona and Real Madrid can call upon expensively assembled squads to make up the numbers and it's not uncommon to see their benches replete with superstars.

    In the recent game versus Almeria, Diego Simeone was forced to field a number of loan or free signings. The manager himself acknowledged his teams shortcomings in this area, per ESPN:

    I'm just being realistic. Dreaming is for the fans.

    We have to live in reality, which is to say working training and working hard, preparing for games and not creating false expectations.

Still a Selling Club

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    Sergio Aguero is one in a long list of players that Atleti have had to sell.
    Sergio Aguero is one in a long list of players that Atleti have had to sell.Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Whilst every club sells players, and in this respect Barca and Real are no different, the very top clubs rarely move on their top players. Unless there is a very good reason.

    You simply wouldn't countenance a Barcelona side without Lionel Messi or Andres Iniesta. A Real Madrid side without Cristiano Ronaldo or Sergio Ramos.

    As has been shown over the last few years, Atleti are still not in the position where they can hang on to their best players.

    Fernando Torres, Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero and Falcao have all departed for pastures new, and as James Olley of the London Evening Standard reported, Diego Costa could be the next star name to be shipped out.

Diego Simeone

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    Diego Simeone has transformed the club.
    Diego Simeone has transformed the club.Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    To be critical of the manager who has transformed the club is perhaps a little unfair on Diego Simeone.

    After all, a Copa Del Rey win, title contenders for much of this La Liga season and a genuine belief amongst his players that this team is going places deserve to be recognised.

    Atleti really are a team in Simeone's own image. But perhaps that is part of the problem.

    The Argentine knows only one way of playing, and successful though it can and has been, to take this team to the next level Simeone must employ some more tactical variation.

    We saw quite clearly how ordinary Atleti looked against Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey second leg, minus the talents of Diego Costa and David Villa.

    Their weaknesses were exposed time and again, and in truth the Rojiblancos were never in the tie.

    Simeone is a very good manager, but not yet a great one.

Popularity

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    Atletico are not as universally supported as either Barcelona or Madrid.
    Atletico are not as universally supported as either Barcelona or Madrid.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Any team that can sell out a 60,000-seat stadium for every home game is obviously a well supported one.

    Atletico Madrid still remain one of the most followed clubs in La Liga.

    However, their popularity doesn't extend as far as the reach of either Barca or Madrid.

    Both of the latter have in the region of 150,000 fully paid up members as well as a true worldwide following.

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