MADRID, Spain – Five facts on Atletico Madrid after they beat Spanish rivals Barcelona to reach the Champions League semifinals:
1. Atletico Madrid are coming out of 4 decades in the football wilderness. They have reached the Champions League semifinals for the first time since 1974.
2. They join Real Madrid in Friday’s draw and if pitted against each other it will be a repeat of the 1959 European Cup semifinal. Real needed a replay to win then with the legendary Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas scoring in the 2-1 win.
3. Koke, scorer of Atletico’s first goal against Barcelona, joined the club at the age of 8 and made his debut when just 17 in a 5-2 hammering at Barcelona. Barcelona’s Xavi said ahead of the quarterfinal that Koke would replace him in Spain’s national team.
4. Former Argentine international and Atletico player Diego Simeone became coach in December 2011 when Atletico were just 4 points above the relegation zone. In his first year in charge, the side won the Europa League, European Supercup and Copa del Rey.
5. Atletico Madrid are battling back from tackling a debt mountain. In 2013 they had to sell striker Radamel Falcao to Monaco for 60 million euros ($83 million) when their debt was officially estimated at 170 million euros but some experts said it was up to 300 million euros. – Rappler.com