Wonder boy Sergio Aguero’s first ever hat-trick at Atlético helped the club snap a streak of four straight losses in Mallorca, but it wasn’t enough to sidestep the two preliminary rounds of the Europa League as los Rojiblancos finish a disappointing 2010-11 season in seventh place.
“It was a bittersweet victory as we were unable to avoid the preliminaries,” goalkeeper David de Gea told the club’s official site after the encounter.
“When you depend on other results, you already know that not only do you have to win, but you have to wait for your opponents to fail.”
When Atleti were coasting along and leading 2-0, fans were hopeful of an Athletic Bilbao or Sevilla collapse; but alas, it wasn’t to happen.
Kun’s milestones and personal records aside, the 4-3 triumph was all for nothing.
Los Colchoneros return to training Monday morning, their last practice session with Quique, ahead of a friendly to be played against Alcorcón on Tuesday before leaving for vacation.
Members of the squad set to feature in the Copa América tournament to take place in Argentina from July 1 through the 24, such as Forlan and Godin (Uruguay), Aguero (Argentina), Perea (Colombia) and Elias (Brazil), have already been dismissed.
Atleti players will regroup with their new coach weeks before the first Europa League playoff round, which kicks off on July 28, with the return leg to be played on August 4.
As for now, all we can do is sit back and wait, and brace for a long summer of all-out transfer rumour pandemonium.
Quique praises Kun and feels Atleti’s future rests on the youth system
“We finished close to achieving the objective,” manager Quique Sanchez Flores told the official site after the clash. “Each team ends up in the spot they deserved. We have won at a difficult ground against an opponent playing for their lives.”
About Aguero, Quique said: “He’s among a select group of players. It would be a shame if Kun left, but this is football. He’s been obsessed with scoring three goals since the beginning of the season, and he has finally accomplished it.”
Following his last match at the helm of Atleti, the coach took one last look back at his accomplishments in his eighteen months with the club.
“We’ve experienced a lot of joy winning the Europa League and next year, the team will play in that competition,” he said. “We value what we have achieved. At times during the season, we have been six and eight points away from a Europa League berth. We accomplished qualification in this competition, and we have to value that.
“We left two titles, and progress; a consolidated team with a promising future because of the people of the youth system. I hope that Atlético continue to bet on ‘grassroots football’.”
Kun surpasses the century mark and breaks personal records
Amidst rampant speculation about his possible departure, Rojiblanco idol Kun Aguero, in spectacular fashion, scored his 99th, 100th and 101st goals in red and white.
He tied his personal record of 27 goals in a season from 2007-08, and broke his career high league total of 18 goals, recording 20 this year.
Many fans were concerned about the Argentine virtuoso’s apparent lack of excitement after he would score, attributing Kun’s indifference to a sign of a possible exit. The striker later assured on his official website that it was out of respect for his opponents who were fighting to avoid relegation.
Kun also wrote: “I’m proud of having achieved this total of 101 goals with Atlético Madrid because it means that I always gave my all for this shirt and left my skin on the field.”
It’s somewhat troubling that he uses the past tense. That he always “gave” his all for the Atleti shirt as opposed to always “gives”, but out of paranoia we might be reading too much into it.
Juanfran scores first goal with Atleti
Juanfran lamented not being able to score against Hércules after last week’s win at the Vicente Calderon, but found the back of the net this time around.
The winger had provided Kun with an assist on our opening goal, and then blasted one home himself minutes later. It was Juanfran’s first goal of the season, and first with his new club.
“Some time has passed since my arrival, three months, and I hadn’t been able to score,” he said after the match. “It was very exciting as I was able to dedicate it to my father. I will work my hardest to become an indisputable starter. I hope that the cub works to bring in the proper players for next season to finish up top.”
Mario Suarez happy former club remained in top flight
Mario Suarez, who spent two seasons at Mallorca before being bought back by Atleti last summer, was disappointed about the seventh place finish but pleased with his former club’s survival.
“We’re upset with not achieving the objective we set,” he said. “With the score in our favour, we came out to the field calmer, and were keeping track of what was happening in the other matches. At least Mallorca saved themselves.”
“I started the season poorly,” Mario admitted, “but at least I ended it playing. I hope it’s the push needed for next season. In the collective sense we were inconsistent. Next year, we should once again fight to make it into Champions League.”
Stat of the day
A breakdown of Kun’s 101 goals: 75 in Liga, 7 in Copa del Rey, 8 in Champions League, 11 in UEFA Cup/Europa League and 1 in the European Super Cup (via Info Atleti).