History

Where Are They Now: Played for Chelsea and Atletico Madrid

After the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League pitted us against Atletico Madrid, we look back at some of the illustrious names to have represented both clubs and find out what they’re up to now.

There have been some blockbuster games between the Blues and Rojiblancos over the past decade or so, including a two-legged Champions League semi-final and a match to decide the UEFA Super Cup, a few months after we were crowned champions of Europe.

That’s not the only shared history the two clubs have, however, as there are also a number of players who have pulled on both shirts in the two decades or so since we made a club-record signing from Atletico Madrid in 2000.

That man was, of course, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the Dutch striker whose goals failed to save Atletico Madrid from relegation in his solitary season there. He continued to score for fun when he made the move to Chelsea for a fee of £15m, winning the Premier League Golden Boot in his maiden campaign as a Blue. Since hanging up his boots, Jimmy has had spells as a manager, most recently with Northampton Town, and he does plenty of punditry for Sky Sports.

It’s apt that Hasselbaink was the first to play for the two clubs, as strikers offer the most current ground between the clubs – some successful, others less so.

As you’ll no doubt be aware, Diego Costa made the move from Atletico Madrid to Chelsea and back again, winning league titles with both clubs and appearing in a Champions League final for the Spanish club. He’ll be eagerly awaiting his first return to Stamford Bridge since his departure, although Blues fans will no doubt recall he scored on his last visit with Atletico…

Fernando Torres was also on target in that game, which was the second leg of a Champions League semi-final in 2014, and it was an emotional goal for a striker who was Atletico Madrid’s golden boy when he came through the ranks there. More than a year has passed since our former record signing hung up his boots, and he was most recently seen in a documentary about his life called The Last Symbol.

There are three more strikers to come, two of which won silverware at Stamford Bridge without ever truly producing their best form and another who struggled to live up to the reputation he’d built during his time with Atletico.

The latter is, of course, Radamel Falcao, the Colombian who famously scored a hat-trick against us in the aforementioned Super Cup game. Three years after that he signed for the Blues, but after scoring only one goal he returned to Monaco, where he was hugely successful. He’s still playing now, at the age of 34, for Galatasaray.

Mateja Kezman spent the 2004/05 campaign with Chelsea, winning the Premier League during an incredible season for the Blues. Individually it was tough on the Serbian striker, although he did at least manage a goal in the final of the 2005 League Cup final win over Liverpool. He left us to join Atletico Madrid and is now an agent (and, briefly, a social-media sensation after showing off pictures of his bushy beard).

Alvaro Morata looks exactly the same as he did the day he left Chelsea to join Atletico Madrid in 2019, initially on loan. The Spanish striker helped us to win the FA Cup in 2018 – and, let’s not forget, he scored a peach of a header against Atleti during that season’s Champions League campaign – but he has since moved on again, this time returning to former club Juventus on loan.

Two members of Atletico Madrid’s 2014 La Liga-winning side were both Premier League winners at Chelsea the following year. Thibaut Courtois was back at the Bridge after a hugely successful loan spell in the Spanish capital, where he later returned in 2018 to sign for Real Madrid; Filipe Luis, meanwhile, was a Brazilian left-back who was a handy squad member during his year in west London, before returning to Atleti. He left them in 2019 to return to his homeland with Flamengo.

Tiago is another who was a title winner with both clubs, albeit almost a decade apart. The Portuguese midfielder burst onto the scene when he joined us ahead of our 2004/05 Premier League-winning season – there are unconfirmed rumours that he still, as the song goes, ‘hates the Arsenal’ – and he was a mainstay of the Atleti team nine years later. He went on to become assistant manager at the Wanda Metropolitano and most recently had a spell in charge of Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes. He also played for Chelsea Legends against Real Madrid Legends in the Bernebeu a couple of summers ago. 

A few months after Tiago left Chelsea in 2005, we added his fellow countryman Maniche to bolster our midfield ranks on a six-month loan deal. Although he picked up a Premier League winners’ medal, he hardly lit up the Bridge and a few months later he headed for Atletico, were he spent the next three years. Since retiring, he’s had a couple of jobs as an assistant manager in his homeland and he was most recently seen at the Europa League draw. Disappointingly, his majestic locks are no more and he invented a new English team called Les-chester City.

Last, but by no means least, we come to the final member of the Chelsea and Atleti alumni. Jesper Gronkjaer’s delivery might not have been as reliable as your local Royal Mail postie – ahem – but he was lightning quick and he produced magic moments in Blue, including a famous goal against Liverpool in a game that sealed Champions League football back in 2003, and with it, some would say, the arrival of Roman Abramovich. It’s fair to say his short stint with Atletico Madrid was less memorable, but he’s now a respected pundit in his homeland.

That’s 11 players we’ve come up with and while it might not be that straightforward putting them in a respectable formation, we should really appoint a manager to at least give it a try. Step forward Claudio Ranieri, who was sacked by Atletico Madrid before he relegated them in 2000 and then soon ended up as Chelsea boss for the next four years. He’s currently managing in his homeland with Sampdoria, the 12th job he’s taken since leaving the Blues in 2004.

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