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