Atlético Madrid versus Galácticos

This Sunday sees the galácticos of Real Madrid travel to The Vicente Calderon for the first Madrid derby of the season. Much is often said every summer about the high profile ins and outs at Real, but it is Atlético de Madrid who arguably have a better eye for players. They have reaped the financial rewards due to these stars’ success on the pitch and go into Sunday’s match as more than a match for their rivals.

Atlético Madrid versus Galácticos

Atleti don’t have the spending power of their city neighbours, nor the same pull when it comes to history, prestige and the potential for winning future trophies; but if we look at both teams as a business of buyers and sellers of property (i.e. players), then Atlético are a money-making machine thanks to their ability to buy raw talent, develop them and then sell them on for a tidy profit.

Since the start of the 2010/11 season Atleti have made a net loss (related to transfers fees) of €15. 2 million; a net loss of just €3. 04 million a season. Compare that with Real who over the same period made a net loss of a staggering €279.5 million, which equates to €55.9 million per season.

Real can afford to make such losses as they balance their books through other means; most notably through marketing, television contracts and by selling replica shirts, with the surnames on the back of the expensive stars they have bought. Los Blancos make well over €100 million per year in broadcasting and ticket sales, and over €150 in marketing and commercial sales, so a net loss on on- pitch assets is more than covered by profits made off the pitch.

Atlético, on the other hand, look for players with potential and raw talent that they can buy at the middle to lower end of the market and thus have a conceivable sell-on value. They don’t generate the same funds as their city rivals, therefore cannot pay such lucrative transfer fees. This does not mean though that they cannot find diamonds in the rough and develop them into world- class players.

The most Atleti have ever paid for a player is €40 million on Radamel Falcao from Porto, whom they later sold on for €60 million to Monaco. Real have paid more than this amount for seven different players, showing again the disparity in spending power between the clubs.

Where Atleti have really excelled in recent years has been with making substantial profits on their investments, like any good business should. Sergio Agüero was bought for €21.7 million and was sold on for €45 million. Arda Turan cost €13 million and was sold this summer for €34 million. Diego Costa was bought for a measly €1.5 million and sold on for €38 million. The greatest profit the club have made so far is on Fernando Torres, who came through the youth ranks and was sold to Liverpool for €38 million. On these five players alone Atleti made a net profit of €138.8 million.

Conversely, Real bought Kaka for €65 million and let him go for free, Luis Figo was bought for €60 million and also left on a free, likewise did David Beckham, who cost €37.5 million. Real also lost €12 million a piece on Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, adding up to a net loss of €201.5 million for just these five players.

The latest stars in the making that Atleti have in their ranks are Koke and Oliver Torres, products of the youth team, Jackson Martinez, who cost €35 million this summer and Antoine Griezmann, a €30 million buy in the summer of 2014. If all three play to their potential then they also have a big sell-on value and could see Los Rojiblancos continuing their trend of making big profits on their investments.

Sunday provides another chance for Atlético Madrid to show that they can compete with their big spending neighbours. However, if they want to earn championships, not just profit on their investments then they will need to hold on to their shining lights. The problem is there are a handful of clubs who can afford to take financial losses to move on players to make space for the latest galáctico. Atleti do not quite fit into that bracket yet, but what they lack in finance they more than make up for in spirit, guile and determination. It proves to be a fascinating dual.