Atletico Madrid remains a haven for the quintessential centre-forward

With David Villa signing for Atletico Madrid, Brendon Netto takes a look at how the club have always possessed top strikers over the years.
 Brendon Netto
 COMMENT | Spain
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Although the finances of David Villa’s move from Barcelona to Atletico Madrid were unexpected, the logic behind the transfer makes perfect sense, particularly for the player. The Madrid outfit have always had a premier goal-scorer leading their line and following the departure of Radamel Falcao to AS Monaco, Villa may just be the striker to continue that trend.

It promises to be a dramatic role-change for the 31 year old who has spent the majority of the last couple of seasons on the sidelines. Even when he did play for the Catalans, he was rarely deployed in his preferred central position and had to make do with a role on the flanks instead. Naturally, he was never able to exercise his full goal-scoring potential but at Atletico, he’ll be encouraged to do just that.

Villa will be the focal point of their attack and should thrive on the responsibility. He’ll be expected to be their top scorer but surely Spain’s leading goal-scorer wouldn’t want it any other way. As for Atletico, they’ve been down this road before on several occasions, in fact and they’ll be well versed in giving Villa everything he needs to get back to his prolific best.

In the last 15 years, Christian Vieri, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Fernando Torres, Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero and Radamel Falcao have all enjoyed impressive scoring records at Atletico. The club’s uncanny ability to detect great strikers dates back to 1981 when Hugo Sanchez first announced himself in the red and white jersey before going on to achieve legendary status with cross-town rivals, Real Madrid.

Player Games Goals Ratio
Vieri 32 29 0.90
Hasselbaink 47 35 0.74
Torres 243 91 0.37
Aguero 234 101 0.43
Forlan 196 96 0.49
Falcao 85 68 0.79

Every one of those forwards featured at the top of the scoring charts in the league during their stay at the club. Interestingly, while most of those strikers were bought from established clubs, Aguero was recruited at a young age from Independiente and Torres graduated from their youth academy.

However, the club’s scouting network and negotiators aren’t solely responsible for their continued success in the striking department. The credit must also be shared with the style of play at the club. A few aspects of their game have remained constant.

They normally employ one lead striker and another in support. What this does is ensures that the forward leading the attack is never isolated as may be the case when playing a lone striker in a 4-5-1 system for example.

They’ve always played with ample width and their wingers are entrusted with primarily delivering crosses for the strikers rather than taking centre stage themselves. The wide players do score the odd goal but they aren’t particularly deployed to cut inside and get into goal scoring positions, something the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Arjen Robben, Angel Di Maria, Franck Ribery and Neymar, to name a few, are accustomed to doing.

All in all, Atletico offer their strikers every tool needed to succeed and as is the nature of natural goal-scorers, they’ve taken full advantage. Remarkably, losing a 30-goals a season striker stirs no panic within the club, they simply bring in the next one to take his place.

Atletico Madrid have repeatedly seen their best strikers leave for greener pastures over the years but they always seem to find replacements without breaking a stride. Falcao will be a hard act to follow but for now at least, Villa may be the right man to fill that void and when he’s no longer capable of doing it, rest assured Atletico will find someone who can.


What do you make of Atletico's history with great strikers? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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