Atletico Madrid has established itself as one of the most dominating forces in Europe in recent years. Founded in 1903 by three Basque students in Madrid, it now stands as the third most successful Spanish club in UEFA competitions after Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Their famous red and white striped combination dates back to 1911 when they were nicknamed Los Colchoneros (“The Mattress Makers”), as their stripes were same as old-fashioned mattresses. The club now plays its home matches at the newly built Wanda Metropolitano, after shifting from Estadio Vicente Calderón in 2017. In this article, we have ranked the greatest Atletico Madrid players of all time among all the legends that played for them.
A club with such rich history obviously had seen greats play for them and elevate their status to such a position where they are now ranked amongst the best. Here is an exhaustive list of the 10 greatest Atletico Madrid players of all time –
(10) Joaquin Peiro
Beginning and ending his career at the Los Indios, Madrid-born Peiro proved to be one of the most influential characters in the history of the club. Scoring 92 goals in 166 games for Atletico Madrid, the attacking midfielder also had stints at a host of other prestigious clubs including Murcia on loan, Torino, Inter Milan and Roma.
He won 12 caps for the Spanish national team; scoring 5 times, including a crucial match winner against Mexico in 1962 World Cup which eventually ended 1-0. He also managed the club in 1990 after coming from Athletico Madrileno and Granada followed by brief coaching tenures at Murcia, Badajoz and Malaga.
(9) Hugo Sanchez
Born and brought up in Mexico City, he played a pivotal role in both Atletico and Real Madrid’s success in the past. He signed as youngster at the age of 18 for Pumas de la UNAM, a professional team of Mexico’s national university, where he even got a degree in Dentistry while playing for the first team. After gaining interest from a host of European clubs after 5 successful seasons in Mexico including English giants Arsenal, he ended up signing for Atletico Madrid in 1981.
His first year at the club was not as good as he would have hoped, he gained momentum in his second season at the club and went on to win the Pichichi award in 1985, scoring 54 goals in 111 matches after which he was signed by Real Madrid where he scored 164 times in 207 appearances. He is currently the fourth highest scorer in the history of Spain’s top division and has rightfully earned his place among the greatest Atletico Madrid players of all time.
(8) Jose Eulogio Garate
Argentina-born Spanish forward Garate began his career in SD Eibar in 1963 before a move to SD Indautxu a couple of years later. He starred in 23 matches for the club, netting 14 times following his move to the Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.
Garate played in 241 of the matches for the Los Colchoneros, successfully netting on 109 occasions in his 11-year long career at the Madrid club. He also won 18 international caps for the Spanish national team and scored 5 goals during the period of 1967-75.
(7) Diego Godin
Born in the city of Rosario in Uruguay, Diego Godin has played a crucial role in Atletico Madrid’s recent triumphs across all competitions. Winning the La Liga once with the club in 2013-14, the main highlight of his stay would be finishing runners-up in the Champions League twice in a period of three years (2013-14, 2015-16). He was named the best defender in La Liga for the 2015-16 season.
Making his senior debut at Cerro (2003-2006) and after the brief stints at Narcional (2006-2007) and Villareal (2007-2010), the talented centre-back appeared in more than 250 matches for Atletico and stablished himself as a fan-favourite. He left ATM to join Inter Milan in the summer of 2019. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest Atletico Madrid players of all time.
(6) Fernando Torres
Spanish hit-man Fernando Torres needs no introduction as he has proved himself as one of the most lethal forwards the world has ever witnessed. Starting his footballing career at the youth ranks of Atletico Madrid in the year 1995 at the age of 11, El Nino broke into the senior squad in 2001 where he slowly developed into a complete player, playing 214 matches and netting 82 times before joining Liverpool in 2007 where he went on to score 65 times in 102 matches until 2011.
Chelsea came calling for the star-striker who was brought to the Stamford Bridge for £50 million making him the most expensive Spanish player in history. Though his Chelsea stay wasn’t as fruitful as he would have hoped, he still ended up winning the Champions League (2011-12) and the club’s first Europa League (2012-13) with them. He returned to Atletico in 2016 for two more years. Torres has also won more than 100 international caps for Spain and remains the country’s third highest goal-scorer with 38 goals.