Atletico Madrid is among the most prominent clubs in Europe and has been one of the most successful clubs in La Liga history. Throughout that time, there have been hundreds of players, but a few of them stand out as truly the best. Here are our selections for the top five players in Atletico Madrid history. Before we start the list, some of the players who just missed the cut include Adelardo Rodriguez, Tomas Renones, Adrian Escudero, Paco Campos, and Antoine Griezman.
The first player on the list is Madrid-born Jorge Resurreccion Merodio, but simply known around the world as Koke. Koke began his youth career with Atletico at just eight years old, and in 2009 was promoted to the top squad. He would end up sticking around, as well, as the midfielder celebrated a full two decades with the club in 2020.
Nobody in Atletico history has made more appearances than Koke, who surpassed Adelardo Rodriguez with his 554th match to take the all-time record. During his career, Atletico has won La Liga twice and the Copa del Rey once. Though he doesn’t have a long list of individual trophies, Koke is very much a staple of the club and one of the first people you think of when you hear Atletico Madrid.
The only member of the list to be born outside of Spain is Diego Godin, an Uruguay native who had several stints before joining Atletico. He made his professional debut with Cerro in 2003, then spent time with Nacional and Villareal. Godin spent nine years with Atletico from 2010 to 2019 before heading to Inter Milan.
When he retired, Godin was ninth all-time in club appearances with 389, which at the time was the most for any player born outside of Spain before being surpassed by Slovenia’s Jan Oblak. Godin was able to win La Liga once (2013-14) while with Atletico, as well as the Copa del Rey the previous year. Twice he was named to La Liga’s Team of the Season and in 2015-16 won the honor of the league’s best defender.
Known as El Nino to many, Fernando Torres was born in Fuenlabrada in 1984, then came up with the Atletico Madrid youth program during the late 1990s. In 2001, he made his professional debut with the senior squad and remained with the club for six years. While a member of AC Milan, Torres made his triumphant return in 2015 and stayed around for another three years.
Torres finds himself toward the top for a lot of career records with Atletico. Upon his retirement, he was eighth all-time in club appearances with 404. Torres is also high up on the career goals leaderboard with 129. Torres is the first member of the list to not win La Liga with Atletico, but he was able to secure the Segunda Division in 2002 while also winning the UEFA Europa League in 2018. In 2008, Torres was recognized as one of the world’s top players, finishing third in the Ballon d’Or voting.
Though his full name is Gabriel Luis Fernandez Arenas, many know him simply as Gabi, or one of the finest Spanish midfielders of all-time. Gabi was born in Madrid and was a product of the Atletico youth program, making his professional debut on the top squad in 2004. He spent three seasons with the club in his first stint, then returned in 2011 to play another seven years before retiring with Al Sadd in 2020.
With his 417 club appearances, Gabi ranks seventh in club history. He helped Atletico win the 2013-14 La Liga title a year after the club won the Copa del Rey. He was named to the Squad of the Season for both La Liga and the UEFA Champions League and was often considered to be one of the best midfielders in Europe during his long and illustrious career.
The top player on the list is Luis Aragones, a Madrid native who started his professional career with Getafe Deportivo. He then became a member of Real Madrid in 1958 but didn’t make any appearances as he was loaned out to three other clubs. After brief runs with Plus Ultra, Oviedo, and Betis, Aragones spent the final decade of his career with Atletico, finally settling down before becoming the club’s manager upon retirement in 1974.
Despite the fact that he doesn’t come in the top 10 of matches played in Atletic history, he has the most goals out of any player. Aragones scored 172 times as a member of Atletico Madrid, with 123 of those goals coming in league play. Aragones won La Liga three times as a player while also adding two Copa del Rey titles.