Real or Atleti: Which team should you back?

If you're still not sure which team to wave a scarf for in Saturday's UEFA Champions League final between crosstown rivals Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, have no fear: this handy guide will help you to make up your mind.

Real or Atleti: Which team should you back?
Time to pick a side: which Madrid will you support on Saturday evening, all-star Real or underdogs Atlético? Photo: AFP

Two clubs, one city, and one of the most eagerly anticipated football matches in recent years. Those are the ingredients for a scintillating evening of soccer when the local rivals travel to the Estadio de Luz in Lisbon, Portugal, to contest European club football's top prize.

For fans of the two teams it's an opportunity to dress up in club colours, cheer, curse and ride the evening's emotional rollercoaster, but  for neutrals the match may be a more nuanced affair.

In case you're still straddling the halfway line, unsure of whom to support, here's our guide to the two teams.

Real Madrid Club de Futbol

  • Founded: 1902
  • Home ground: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
  • Colours: Home – White shirts, white shorts, white socks; Away – Blue shirts, blue shorts, blue and white socks
  • President: Florentino Perez
  • Coach: Carlo Ancelotti
  • Captain: Iker Casillas
  • Star Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

The world's biggest football club? Some say so, especial Real Madrid fans. Los Merengues (the meringues, after their white shirts) certainly have bragging rights when it comes to the size of their trophy cabinet: 32 domestic La Liga triumphs and a record 9 European Cup/UEFA Champions League wins have made them the richest club on the planet — or is it vice versa?

Despite their €513 million ($700 million) annual turnover, it's now 12 years since Real lifted the Champions League and they could only manage third place in this year's La Liga. Manager Carlos Ancelotti will be motivated by the chance to become just the second man in history to lift the trophy three times, having already tasted victory with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007.

Recent form aside, Real Madrid are the Goliaths in this match. Rich and powerful, they represent the Spanish establishment and will expect, as always, nothing less than absolute victory — the magic décima or tenth European cup trophy — over their upstart rival so that they can get back to the usual business of battling it out with FC Barcelona.

The Fans:

  • Favourite drink: gin and tonic (Bombay Sapphire of course)
  • Sunday outfit: pink polo shirt
  • Half-time sandwich filling: the finest acorn-fed, cured bellota ham

Why side with Real? Because you play the odds, back winners and enjoy watching a team packed with some of the sport's greatest talents.

Club Atletico de Madrid

  • Founded: 1903
  • Home ground: Estadio Vicente Calderón
  • Colours: Home – Red and white striped shirts, light blue shorts, red socks; Away – Yellow shirts with dark blue panels, yellow shorts, yellow socks
  • President: Enrique Cerezo
  • Coach: Diego Pablo Simeone
  • Captain: Gabi
  • Star Player: Diego Costa

The two-horse race that is Spain's La Liga was interrupted in style this year by an inspired Atlético Madrid side who surged past Real Madrid then pipped Barcelona at the post in the Nou Camp on the last day of the season to lift the trophy for the first time in 18 years, the tenth such triumph in the club's long history.

Simeone's side was never expected to be this good. Richer teams constantly circle the financially vulnerable club like vultures, picking off its star players. Current top scorer Diego Costa, currenly under an injury cloud and no certainty to play on Saturday, came to Atletico for relative peanuts and, with Chelsea waving fat cheques at him, is strongly rumoured to have only one more game left for Los Colchoneros (the mattress-makers, after their red-and-white stripes in the style of old mattresses).

Simeone himself might also be lured away by the promise of higher wages after working what many in football perceive to be a miracle in Spain.

This then, could be Atlético's last chance for some time to taste European glory. The working-class and long-suffering Atlético fanbase has only ever been to one European final, losing in 1974 to Bayern Munich.  The tireless supporters will want to savour the moment and desperately hope that their unlikely heroes can achieve the improbable before the inevitable squad demolition and rebuilding begins again next year.

The Fans:

  • Favourite drink : caña (draught beer)
  • Sunday outfit: club strip
  • Half-time sandwich filling: supermarket chorizo

Why side with Atlético? Because you're sentimental, back the underdog and enjoy watching a team of motivated players give their all for the fans.

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Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.