#ShirtStories: Atlético Madrid

21/03/17

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For the second of our series of #ShirtStories, Kitbag.com breaks down Atlético Madrid’s 2016-17 home jersey; the centerpiece of a iconic kit with roots in the Basque Country and England. And, um, mattresses…

Click to find the 2016-17 Atlético Madrid home shirt on Kitbag.com or read on for the story.

History of the design

The likeness and lineage of Club Atlético de Madrid is closely intertwined with the early years of Athletic Bilbao, with the boys from autonomous Basque region playing a significant role in shaping the Madrid club’s identity. It was April 1903 when a group of proud students from the area opted to form an offshoot of the Bilbao club in Madrid. The result was the formation of Atlético, who adopted the red and white stripes already worn by their Basque counterparts. However, in 1911, an event occurred which would alter the Atlético palette forever. On a visit to England, a representative of the twinned clubs attempted to source some blue and white striped shirts from Blackburn Rovers, who were regularly challenging for the English league title at the time. Rovers would be champions in both 1912 and 1914, their only successes until the landmark 1994-95 Premier League campaign. However, the hunt for Rovers’ blue and white would prove to be a fruitless one, with the travelling party only able to obtain the red and white jerseys of Southampton. On returning, Bilbao would adopt the Saints’ red and white colours en masse, but the Madrid side would choose to retain their existing blue shorts, resulting in the colour combination most associate with Atlético today.

The team’s red and white striped jerseys would meanwhile become the cause of and inspiration for the club’s historic nickname. Known as ‘Los Colchoneros’, Atlético’s unique moniker translates as ‘the mattresses’ or ‘mattress makers’, with red and white striped cloth having been commonly used for the manufacturing of mattresses at the time, primarily due to their cost effectiveness. As such, it stands to reason that the fledgling Madrid club would make use of this colour scheme and style for their early jerseys, though few can have imagined the legacy that this mattress-making cloth would ultimately leave in Madrid.

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Classic moments and key players

After back-to-back Spanish titles at the start of the 1950s and 60s, Atlético announced their arrival on the continental stage in 1962 with a landmark European Cup Winners’ Cup Final win over Sampdoria, wearing their red and white striped jerseys in both the initial match at Hampden Park and the subsequent replay at Stuttgart’s Neckarstadion (known today as the Mercedes-Benz Arena). The following decade saw the team reach a European Cup Final, before stepping in for eventual champions Bayern Munich in the 1974 Intercontinental Cup, showcasing their colours to the world in a 2-1 two-legged triumph against Argentina’s Independiente. Fast-forwarding to more modern times and Atlético’s famous red and white would be donned in the 2010 Europa League Final win against Fulham, as well as the 2012 Final victory over, ironically, Athletic Bilbao. The match saw Bilbao forced to switch their colours, bringing things somewhat full circle in the process. The Madrid club would also contest two UEFA Champions League Finals in their first choice kit, though on each occasion, Los Colchonneros would be forced to settle for second best, as rivals Real claimed the trophy. Nevertheless, recent years have seen a veritable who’s who pull on a red and white jersey in Madrid, with eventual Premier League standouts Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa preceding an impressive current crop, highlighted by superstar names like Koke and Antoine Griezmann.

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Crest and other elements

2016-17′s Atlético Madrid home jersey is notable for being the last to bear the club’s crest in its present form; an issue that has already proven highly-sensitive. Coinciding with their move to an all-new 67,000 capacity stadium, an updated variation of the badge is in the offing in time for next season and although the revamped motif might not seem markedly dissimilar to the unaffiliated or untrained eye, it has quickly become a hot and divisive topic for many associated with Atlético. Retaining key elements from a host of prior incarnations, the design worn in this final campaign at the Vicente Calderón Stadium is comprised of several core components; and while its red and white stripes might be self-explanatory, the bear on its hind legs reaching at the strawberry tree remains a distinctly memorable image and one that dates many centuries, before the birth of the club itself. In the Thirteenth Century, Madrid was bestowed with a nickname that translates as ‘the village of the bear and strawberry tree’; a reference to the high number of both in the area at the time. As things stand, the image of these two will soon be stylised for the 207-18 campaign (reverting to blue in the process), with the yellow border present in the current crest also set for the chop, despite be visible on Atlético shirts as long ago as 1917. Wrapping the bear and tree scenario, a cluster of seven stars conversely has made the cut; its symbolism tied to the seven-star constellation of Ursa Major, with each of its stars’ five points a nod to Madrid’s neighbouring sub-regions of Segovia, Avila, Guadalajara, Cuenca and Toledo. Nevertheless, a considerable portion of the Atlético fanbase have campaigned vehemently for their current badge to remain unchanged, using the hashtag #ElEscudoNoSeToca (#TheShieldCanNotBeTouched) to express their passionate opinions. With its cherished motif seemingly approaching its final days, the current Atlético shirt additionally carries a special hidden graphic honouring the Vicente Calderón and its fiftieth anniversary; an emotive inclusion poignantly enclosed at the inner back neck.

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Manufacturer and sponsorship

One of a surprisingly light field of La Liga contenders to partner up with Nike, Atlético’s alliance with the masters of the Swoosh sees them mirror the link-up enjoyed by kindred spirits Athletic Bilbao and defending champions Barcelona. As is the trend for comtemporary Nike efforts, full colour shoulders are retained, along with a no-nonsense crew neck collar and a signature brand jock tag that sits above the hem. The present Atlético shirt sponsor is Plus500, an Israeli firm that specialises in supplying online trading services to a host of different retailers. Plus500 announced their deal at the start of 2015; their rectangular logo replacing the branding of predecessor Azerbaijan (the ‘Land of Fire’) for at least three seasons. Unlike the primary sponsors of Barcelona and Real, Plus500 are a relatively new name in the game, but their sponsorship of top level teams is not contained to football, with the company recently obtaining naming rights to Australian Super Rugby outfit the Brumbies. Making use of the same appropriate tertiary blue that complements this jersey, the rectangular Plus500 logo makes an inoffensive addition to a classic Colchoneros base.

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Across the season

At the time of writing, Atlético Madrid had worn their 2016-17 home shirt in the majority of their La Liga fixtures, taking in the thumping home wins over Sporting Gijón, Granada and, most recently, Valencia, not to mention the marquee encounters with Real and Barcelona. In addition, the jersey would be an effective attacking uniform on its first appearance away from home, worn in September’s 4-0 thrashing of Celta Vigo at the Balaídos Municipal Stadium. Interestingly given its history, the club would opt for a temporary, Southampton-style revamp of their home colours during November’s 2-0 defeat at Real Sociedad, adopting red shorts to avoiding a clash with the blue worn by their hosts. They would also adopt the same style for UEFA Champions League wins at Rostov and Bayer Leverkusen. Worn during six of their eight UCL outings to date this season, the 2016-17 home jersey is likely to be seen at least once during Atlético’s two-legged Quarter-Final with English champions Leicester City.

Technical breakdown

As is customary for Nike’s replica jerseys, the 2016-17 Atlético home shirt does not shirk in its supply of premium performance attributes, with match-ready ribbed sleeve cuffs designed to facilitate a superior custom fit, as the inner back of the jersey neck remains taped to allow for extra comfort. Making optimal use of the market leader’s signature Dri-FIT fabric, natural body moisture is wicked away in wear, to the benefit of players and supporters alike, while flexible coloured side tape, Nike Swoosh brand motif embroidery and a woven rendition of the aforementioned club crest add to this triumphant jersey’s impressively vivid aesthetic. AC

Click here to read the first entry in our #ShirtStories series, on Ajax’s 2016-17 home jersey

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