When Atlético Madrid built their new stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano, they had the good taste to create a Walk of Legends on the way to the ground, where the fans could stroll, like the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, among plaques paying homage to the stars of the club. A lovely initiative, allowing parents and grandparents to explain to their children and grandchildren the past triumphs of their favourite club and the players who took part in them. But such is the way of football in general and Atlético in particular that the idea is a source of constant controversy. The emotional departure of Luis Suárez has opened the heated debate once again.
Luis Suárez hasn’t played 100 games for the club, a requirement agreed upon by all to fix an objective criteria. But then Hugo Sánchez did reach the milestone and so has a plaque, which many would like to get rid of and some spend their time defacing it. Leivinha and Falcao also aren’t there. Nor the wonderful San Román, who was substitute goalkeeper for so many years, but always such a huge fan of the club while he was with us. The great Marcel Domingo also misses out, stuck on 96 games, but having won two leagues, and then he was coach for the 3-0 against Cagliari, and won another league. And looking further back there are others missing, forgotten by all but their descendants.
The concept of a Legend is hard to pin down. 100 is a convincing number, but in choosing it, it was forgotten that as the years have gone by it’s become easier to reach that total, with longer league seasons, more competitions and so many changes. How to fix the situation? The club have put up banners along the walk for Leivinha and Falcao and will soon add Luis Suárez. Will that stop the critics? Not while Hugo Sánchez is there, who causes even more annoyance than Courtois. Personally, I think that the ‘100 game barrier’ is a good practical starting point, though it needs some fine tuning to avoid problems that stain such a beautiful initiative. But it’s difficult.