Atletico have been on the periphery of La Liga success for a number of years, but it’s only within the last five seasons that they’ve reached a new level of success, finally establishing themselves at the table as a heavyweight in world football. They’ve wasted no time in ensuring that they stay there, adding three teams to their portfolio.
Indian side Atletico de Kolkata were the first to join them in 2014, with Atletico Madrid among the founding partners along with several prominent Indian businessmen, one of which gave the following speech at the club’s launch: “We don’t want to compete. We just want to play. We want to bring football to Kolkata. Kolkata is the place for football besides Kerala and Goa. We want cricket to be as popular as it is but at the same time, we want to develop football as well. I don’t think two popular things can’t go together. The standard of football has to be good and I am sure popularity will follow.” With a population of well over a billion inhabitants, India could very well prove to be a hotbed of talent in the future, and Atletico will be at the front of the line to snatch it up.
In the summer of 2016, Atletico Madrid acquired 35% of French Ligue 2 club RC Lens (the other 65% being sold to a company called Solferino, of which is headed by Atletico Madrid long-term financial advisor…). Lens has a proven record of bringing young talent through, with Geoffrey Kondogbia, Raphaël Varane and Thorgan Hazard being recent graduates of the academy, and Atletico seem to be wanting to preserve that ethos by giving the following quote at the announcement of the partnership: “The objective is to return the club to the level of their potential, Atletico will bring their sporting planning, their networks and some players. The investors and Atletico have seen the quality of the club, their fans, employees and facilities.
The priority is to return to Ligue 1, make signings and generate business to stabilise the club in the medium term. This is not just about moving players between Atletico and Lens.”
So whilst Atletico are promising investment and a return to glory for RC Lens, I’m sure they’ll use it as a blooding ground for future talents who aren’t quite ready for Atletico Madrid, as well as a possible recruitment source for future French local talents, making it a strong investment.
March 2017 saw Atletico Madrid again invest in an overseas club, purchasing 50% of Mexican 2nd division side Atletico San Luis, and the news of the purchase threw up an interesting quote from Atletico Madrid: “Atletico Madrid have made a strong push for some time to expand internationally, studying the most interesting markets and taking part in them through international franchises such as Atletico de Kolkata in India or Racing Lens in France. Within these markets the club sees Mexico as very important, so they have been working for some time on the objective of entering it through the Atletico San Luis franchise.”
It’s pretty obvious from these statements that Atletico Madrid are actively looking to and will most certainly expand in the future. The exact reasoning behind their portfolio of clubs is as of yet unknown, but I’d imagine over the summer a few Atletico youth players may find themselves on loan to RC Lens. The long-term future I envision is somewhat different, with talented players from Mexico, India and whatever will be bought next being brought over to Europe (provided they’re up to the grade!) and being trained by Lens before making the step up to the Atletico Madrid main team.