"The Uruguayan player does not hesitate at any time to sacrifice the personal part for the group. And that is what Josema [Giménez] has, Torreira has, what It has Luis Suárez and all the players in the national team. Atlético is strong as a team and in communion with its fans. The Uruguayan footballer fits in perfectly there. "
Eduardo Belza (Montevideo, 1956) speaks, the second of the 19 Uruguayans who have passed through Atlético and whose stories THE WORLD covers. He was a goalkeeper. In December
1980, he was signed by his compatriot
technical secretary and former coach of Atlético. Since 2007, he has also been the sports manager of the Uruguayan team. His adventure in Madrid was discreet, at least in the first team. He occupied the position of foreigner who left
and played four games. "The commitment was to nationalize me to release a foreigner file. The following year they transferred me to the subsidiary that Peiro directed. He combined Madrid with his medical career at the San Carlos Hospital. Spanish nationality arrived when he was already returning to Uruguay (1984). Years later, he would be a legend in Tenerife del ascenso (1989), as well as a doctor.
The pioneer was
already deceased. A short right winger, without goal or overflow, with which
Luis Benítez de Lugo
Marques de la Florida and president of Atlético, tried to boost the team in 1955. His greatest glory was to appear almost by accident in the semifinal of the '54 World Cup, due to the injury of
. Son of Galicians, in two years he scored a goal in five games. He did it in his premiere in that Metropolitan who raised his voice with his Gradona. Souto was a failure.
The 'Polilla', victim of Gil's revolution
"The Uruguayan player tries to give himself to the maximum in each club that goes. Atlético fits in very well for us because he welcomes us very well and adapts to the style of dedication and sacrifice," abounds
Jorge da Silva
(1961), nicknamed Moth as a youth, by a famous Uruguayan player for Nacional (Alfredo de los Santos). "And I stayed with Polilla", he jokes from the United Arab Emirates, where he directs Al Ittihad.
He had been Pichichi with Valladolid (17 goals in 1984) and came in exchange for 70 million pesetas to make
sold to Real Madrid, forget. "It was a great responsibility and a very important challenge. That Atlético de Madrid was a more humble team, in terms of the squad they could put together. Only two foreigners were allowed and we were Pato Fillol and me. There was a very big difference with Real Madrid and Barcelona, but there was always the illusion of having a great championship and fighting the tournament, "he says.
He was two courses and scored in the first Super Cup of the club. In total, 80 games and 29 goals, the last in the Cup final against Real (1987). It was his farewell. "Gil and Gil assumed the presidency and had already bought Futre before becoming president. Menotti arrived as a technician and we were four foreigners, because Alemao was also there. Gil's arrival was a revolution," he recalls.
In the twilight of the twentieth century, a young man appeared whom his sister had baptized as Petete, after that fictional character from the 70s. A nickname that he strongly grasped in the rojiblanca fans. In the summer of 1995,
(1974) found his bones in Madrid through his agent
who had (and has) a great connection to the Gil family. "Simeone would drive me and
to train. We lived in the same building (near La Paz) and we had good talks drinking mate," he reviews from Montevideo. His presence in the double team (1996) was almost testimonial: "I came to a country that I did not know, with a different football from mine. My first year was going to be to adapt, because life was also different. Antic put together a good team and won everything since the preseason. The training sessions were very happy, because when you win everything is easier. "
However, it ended up being key in the worst moment in the club's history. "I had a serious injury, with a fracture, and we went down to Second. The first year we were very close to going up. Then Luis came, the best coach I have ever had and with whom I learned a lot. He knew how to treat players and, also, to who had to scold. He took great advantage of me and he knew how to take me. He even made me captain! "
Between him (175 games and 45 goals) and his compatriot
loaned by Valencia in the operation for
and that he scored 22 goals – "he got sick every time he didn't score" -, they returned Atlético to Primera. A left-foot strike from him against Nástic served as a push for a delayed return, which came the next day. "For a Uruguayan, the rojiblanca fans are very similar to the celestial ones. It is a team that reaches you and you end up having affection for them. The Uruguayan feels very comfortable. If
you give up
the people appreciate you, "he says. They say that the shout "Uruguayan, Uruguayan!" from the athletic stands he started with him.
A checkered presentation
However, the relationship crumpled with a handful of names driven to Madrid by Casal. This was the case, for example, of
(2004/05), marked by an eventful presentation at the Calderón. Apparently, a utility man gave him boots "two or three sizes bigger." And between that and the fact that the grass had been watered, Sosa (1978), a native of a very poor town in Montevideo, ended up on the floor. In his brief history, he hit an amateur, starred in a cover in which he got involved with the Real Madrid galacticos and was accompanied by the legend that his signing had been the recommendation of the filmmaker
José Luis Garci
then a commentator for the Copa América, to
. "He was a good kid, but he got the wrong continent," they remind this newspaper.
on loan from Juventus, was penalized for his introverted nature. He only played 21 minutes and said goodbye on a stretcher, with the heels of a rival nailed to his ankle, on the day that Zaragoza denied Atlético the return to Europe (2004). Richard Núñez
was conditioned by the recent past of his compatriots and a team in reconversion.
De los Santos
a meticulous and serious guy, fulfilled in his brief period. And, years before, neither
leave the slightest trace.
Forlán changes inertia
The dark parenthesis closed it with a slam
(1979), who arrived at Atlético on the third attempt (2007), to erase Torres's scar: " Fernando's shadow, each one is who he is, "says the Uruguayan top scorer in Atletico's history (96 goals in 198 games), for which they paid Villarreal 21 million. "The philosophy of the Uruguayan and that of Atleti are very similar, both in football style and in character," which remains the club's only Golden Boot. His double in the final of the Europa League (2010) reopened the doors of heaven and, also, served as a hinge for posh compatriots. And that
(4 games) or the
who appeared with a drum to liven up the party for the Copa 2013, they did not take root.
(389 games and 27 goals), the foreigner with the most rojiblanco games, headed a league and almost did the same with the first Champions League. He left in 2019 with the bracelet firmly attached. And since 2011, the legs of Atlético de Simeone have been sharpened by another illustrious Uruguayan as his inseparable
"Since you learn to walk, every Uruguayan child loves the ball. We are born with one under our arms," Giménez
reported months ago in an interview with this newspaper. This summer he welcomed
who will be absent for a few days after
test positive for Covid-19 with your selection
. In just a couple of months, Suárez has had time to change (for the better and with Simeone's conviction) Atlético's offensive style. Gourmet products imported from a country with half the inhabitants of Madrid. And the thing is that a part of Atlético's heart beats in Montevideo.
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