Thousands were shocked by it and when it finished like it did, they saw it as pointless. Yet, this was not about keeping Atletico’s chances alive in the competition. In fact, if Simeone told the truth he would probably confirm that he didn’t care less about the Europa League.
But when he urged Sergio Asenjo to go up for the corner in the last minute he was defending his unbeaten home record. Rubin Kazan got the ball, scored their second and Los Rojiblancos were set an impossible task but few at the club were sad. The club has its eye on bigger fish, Champions League qualification and by God do they need it!
Atletico desperately need to qualify for the Champions League this season. For the past few seasons they have been working on a budget that was supposed to be for a club in Europe’s elite competition. That poor planning and financing sees the club, well to put it bluntly, broke.
For example, last summer, when Diego Rivas returned to Germany after his loan spell expired, the club had no funds to sign him. They lowered their expectations and tried to sign former player Jose Jurado for just €5m. Jurado agreed terms but Atleti had a problem. They didn’t have the €5m and so the deal was called off. Then they turned to Michu but found that they couldn’t afford him neither. Things were starting to get desperate at the Manzanares River.
Chelsea and Bayern Munich received €60m and €42m respectively for their Champions League exploits last season. Atletico and Athletic received €10.5m and €9.5m respectively from the Europa league. Qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League would see Atletico earn at least €20m and from then on, the tills keep on ringing.
When the accounts were published last summer it turned out that during last season, despite winning the Europa League, Los Rojiblancos earned less money than in the 2010-11 campaign. During that term they failed to get out of their Europa League group, a weak group it should be said, and were knocked out early from the Copa del Rey by Real Madrid. In spite of this they still made more money. Last season they sold Kun Aguero, David De Gea and Diego Forlan. Not only did they receive transfer fees but also they got three of their highest earners off the books yet still they earned less money. Why?
One of the reasons is that money for the sale of Kun went straight to the Taxman. Hacienda is owed around €200m from the club. Depending on who you read the club has other debts that range from €100m to €300m. It is for that reason the club desperately need to secure a place in the top four.
Ticket sales rise a little or barely at all when they play in the Europa League. Season ticket holders pay a set price and then they get to see all the games that the club play in. Apart from them, very few brave the cold on a Thursday to see the likes of Rubin Kazan. A win in the Europa League earns a club around €200,000.
One member of the club suggested that it was barely worth it for the club to compete when travel costs, insurance costs and potential injuries are taken into account. It seems that Simeone shares the same train of thought because on Thursday in Russia, he started with two Cantera products and only two regular first team players, Radamel Falcao and Miranda. He left seven key players at home to prepare for this weekend’s tie. A man, who had been taking it one game at a time, suddenly appeared to be looking ahead.
Of course Atletico will claim they want Champions League football for other reasons rather than to service their debt. It would help in their chances to keep Falcao, attract better players and also keep Simeone happy. The Argentine Coach wants to compete at the top and for now believes that Atletico can do that.
The Taxman and creditors have been patient but in a country that has almost six million on the dole that has gone and should Atletico rub shoulders with the top clubs next September most of the revenue will go straight out of the club. Whilst the Europa League brings silverware, the Champions League hymn brings a future and hope.