Falcao firing Atleti’s title hopes

Gary Pritchard

Gary Pritchard

Wednesday, 31 Oct 2012, 14:48

It was yet another buen día for Atlético Madrid on Sunday as they beat bottom of the table Osasuna to remain level on points with Barcelona at the top of the Primera.

The win extended Atleti’s club record unbeaten run to 23 matches, and their Colombian striker, Radamel Falcao, secured his own personal record of scoring in 11 consecutive matches.

Predictably it is not Atleti’s form and potential title challenge which has made the headlines.

Instead, the newspapers have been full of praise for El Tigre and how his move away from the Vicente Calderón to a ‘big’ club is inevitable.

Of course, Atleti fans would sniffily suggest their club is a big club, and in terms of support and history, Los Colchoneros could rightly lay claim to being Spain’s third club.

However, it is 16 years since they won the last of their nine league titles and they live in the constant shadow of their illustrious neighbours, Real Madrid, whom they have not defeated since 1999.

But there is one aspect wher Atleti reign supreme.

According to a study by the University of Barcelona, Atleti have debts of €514m whilst AS newspaper reported that €155m of this debt owed to the Spanish tax man.

For a more in-depth analysis of the financial mess in which Atleti find themselves it is well worth reading the excellent Swiss Ramble blog.

The nature of the debt and the repayment schedules they have in place to service this debt have already seen the almost enforced departures of the club’s last two star players.

At the end of last season, despite winning the Europa League for the second time in three yeras, Sergio Aguero left for Manchester City whilst Diego Forlán moved to Internazionale.

It means Atleti are very unlikely to be able to rebuff the rumoured interest in Falcao of mega rich clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City or even – perish the thought – Real Madrid, come the January transfer window.

The only realistic hope they have of hanging on to their star striker is to keep their title challenge going for as long as possible.

And December will give us all an idea of how realistic that challenge actually is. First up is the visit of Real Madrid to the Vicente Calderón on 2 December followed by a trip to the Camp Nou to take on Barcelona a fortnight later.

Two defeats in those two games could well snuff out not only Atlético’s title hopes but also any hope they had of hanging on to Falcao.