The club's flair for dramatics is partly what makes Atletico's story so human. Despite its ups and downs, it has always succeeded in winning trophies. And since the return of former player Simeone, it is taking on and often beating Europe's elite.
Simeone played for the last championship-winning team. The Argentine coach has instilled defensive discipline in a squad that was prone to late collapses. Creative midfielders Koke and Arda Turan provide for striker Diego Costa, who already has 35 goals this season.
Atletico has won five trophies in the last four seasons, including a pair of Europa League titles — one trophy more than Real Madrid over that same period. Ending a 17-year wait, Atletico also finally beat its crosstown rival last May, in the Copa del Rey final.
Atletico is on the verge of a place in the Champions League final after reaching the semifinals of Europe's top competition for the first time since 1974, with everything to play for on Wednesday at Chelsea in the second leg following a scoreless draw in the first leg.
Not bad for a team nicknamed "Los Colchoneros" — "mattress makers" — with its red and white strip resembling a traditional pattern for Spanish bedding.
"If we win it's because we've deserved it, not because we have some 'galacticos,'" Gabi told Panenka Magazine, referring to Madrid's history of breaking transfer records to sign players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham or Gareth Bale.
"When I was young and was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I didn't say a football player but a football player for Atleti. I'm living the dream of all of our fans, which is nothing less than to be playing for the team you love."
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