El Centrocampista

ONE DIRECTION – What now for Atleti?

Living in Australia makes it hard to follow my favourite Spanish side, Atlético Madrid. I rarely watch games live as they usually kick off at around 4-5am.

I go to sleep knowing Atleti are playing overnight and when I wake up in the morning I immediately check the result, read the match report and catch up on the highlights.

Atletico’s result can influence my mood that morning, and sometimes for the rest of the day. Of late, there hasn’t been much to smile about in the days following an Atletico fixture.

Being a Rojiblanco is tough. There is a lot of hope and promise with very little delivered in the way of success, the 2010 Europa League title being the exception.

The past six months have been especially tough. Under Gregorio Manzano, the club hadn’t been fulfilling the board’s expectations or the fans’, for that matter. Being knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Segunda B Division outfit Albacete was the icing on the cake. Manzano put it best himself, calling the situation a “fiasco.”

With last nights dismissal of Manzano, the owners have a chance to really initiate change at the club. For too long have Atletico wandered aimlessly without direction.

Look at Barcelona, the club has a clear plan and they know the style of play they want to produce. They then go out and find a coach who can bring the best out of the players, who have been recruited because they slot into the system well.

Even Atleti’s bitter rivals Real Madrid have a clear direction. They bring in a manager like Jose Mourinho who has a proven track record when it comes to recruitment and trophies and the club’s philosophy continues.

At Atletico, it seems that the players and managers the club recruit are simply the best available, within the clubs price range at the time.

Keeping talented young players is another issue. Atletico are too quick to cash in on their young prodigies, most notably Fernando Torres and David De Gea who are Cantera products and Sergio Aguero who developed into one of the top strikers in Europe while in Madrid.

It’s understandable that these players want to move on if they feel they can’t achieve anything at the Vicente Calderon however; the club is notorious for its willingness to move the player on to make a profit. This is okay for the short-term but for the longer-term this is really hurting the club.

The off field management need to sit down and have a serious discussion about the direction in which the club is going. Currently, it’s heading towards extinction. The club’s debt and lack of success means, like many other sides in Spain, the future is bleak at the Vicente Calderon.

This makes me, and most other Atletico fans very upset. I know enough of the club’s history to be aware of the hurt long time supporters must be going through. Their once great club is dying while they can only watch on as Real and Barça win trophy after trophy.

It may be hard to believe, but had Atletico not suffered the mismanagement it has over the past quarter of a century, then los Rojiblancos could very well be at the head of the La Liga table. Instead, they are struggling to keep pace in the race for 2012/13 European football qualification.

Atleti fans will never lose hope that one day we will see the club at the summit of Spanish football. We will continue to support the club and push them to succeed, but the owners, who haven’t been doing so, need to do the same.

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