Club Atlético Nacional S. A., also known as Atlético Nacional, is a Colombian professional football team based in Medellín. The club is one of only three teams to have played in every first division tournament in the country's history, the other two teams being Millonarios and Santa Fe.
|Full name||Club Atlético Nacional S. A.|
|Nickname(s)||Los Verdolagas (The Green-goers),|
El Verde (The Green),
Rey de Copas (King of Cups),
El Verde de la Montaña (The Green from the Mountains),
El Verde Paisa (The Paisa Green),
El Siempre Verde (The Evergreen)
|Founded||7 March 1947|
|Ground||Estadio Atanasio Girardot|
|Owner||Organización Ardila Lülle|
|Chairman||Juan David Pérez|
|Manager||Juan Carlos Osorio|
|League||Categoría Primera A|
|2019–I||5th (First stage)|
4th, Group B (Semifinals)
Atlético Nacional was founded on 7 March 1947 as Club Atlético Municipal de Medellín by Luis Alberto Villegas López, a former president of the football league of Antioquia. The current owner, Organización Ardila Lülle, officially acquired the team in 1996. According to CONMEBOL, Atlético Nacional is the club with the largest number of fans in Colombia.
Atlético Nacional plays its home games at the Atanasio Girardot stadium, which has a capacity of 45,943. It shares the stadium with its local rivals, Independiente Medellín. The teams face each other in a derby known as El Clásico Paisa, which is considered one of the most important derbies in the country. Atlético Nacional also has a rivalry with Millonarios, a rivalry that arose from the 1989 Copa Libertadores.
Considered to be one of the strongest clubs from Colombia, it is one of the most consistent clubs in the country. Atlético Nacional has won 16 league titles, four Copa Colombia and two Superliga Colombiana, a total of 22 domestic titles, making it the most successful team in Colombia. It was also the first Colombian club to win the Copa Libertadores in 1989 and, after winning the title again in 2016, the most successful Colombian side in that tournament. It also has the most international titles of any Colombian club, having also won the Copa Merconorte twice, the Copa Interamericana twice, and the Recopa Sudamericana once, for a total of seven international trophies.
In 2016, Atlético Nacional was ranked by IFFHS as the best football club in the world, becoming the first South American club, and the first outside Europe, to receive the honor. It is also ranked as the best Colombian club in the 21st century. Nacional is also credited as the best Colombian team in CONMEBOL club tournaments and ranks 3rd in Copa Libertadores' official club ranking.
Atlético Nacional was founded as Club Atlético Municipal de Medellín on 7 March 1947 by a partnership led by Luis Alberto Villegas López, former president of the football league of Antioquia. The club was created to promote sports in the city, especially football and basketball. It was based on Unión Indulana Foot-Ball Club, an amateur club from the Liga Antioqueña de Fútbol, the local amateur football league. Officially, the founding members were: Luis Alberto Villegas Lopera, Jorge Osorio, Alberto Eastman, Jaime Restrepo, Gilberto Molina, Raúl Zapata Lotero, Jorge Gómez Jaramillo, Arturo Torres Posada and Julio Ortiz.
Atlético Nacional joined the professional league for its first edition in 1948. For that tournament, each club had to pay a fee of 1,000 pesos (at that time, approximately 1,050 USD). Atlético Nacional played the first match of the history of the tournament, a 2–0 victory over Universidad. The tournament had ten participants that season and Atlético Nacional was 6th with seven victories, four draws and seven defeats.
Atlético Municipal changed to its current name, Atlético Nacional, for the 1951 season. The name change was made as a way to reflect the main philosophy of the club: to encourage the national sportsman. That philosophy also reflected in the policy of signing only national players. This policy held special meaning during Colombia's El Dorado period, a time when most Colombian clubs were aggressively pursuing foreigners. It was not until 1953 that the club signed the first foreign player, the Argentine Atilio Miotti.
Atlético Nacional won its first league title in 1954. Manager Fernando Paternoster (who managed the team from 1948 to 1951 and from 1954 to 1957) guided the team through a season in which they lost just once (to Boca Juniors de Cali). The star was Argentine striker Carlos Gambina, who led the league with 21 goals.
Economic troubles plagued the team in the late 1950s, and during 1958 the club was briefly forced to merge with crosstown rivals Independiente Medellín. These financial problems and occasional returns to the club's policy of only signing Colombian players hampered results, and the club failed to win another title for nineteen years.
The drought was finally broken in 1973. The revival had actually started after the 1970 season, with the hiring of manager José Curti and the signing of midfielder Jorge Hugo Fernández. In 1971, Nacional won the Apertura title and only narrowly lost the national championship to Santa Fe (they fell 3-2 in a second replay of a bitterly fought championship playoff). Following a strong finish in 1972, Nacional won its second league title in 1973. They qualified for the final stage by winning the Torneo Finalización with 34 points, then finished first in a three-way round robin against Millonarios and Deportivo Cali. This championship was followed up by a runner-up finish in 1974.
1976 saw a new era for the club begin, with the hiring of Argentine manager Osvaldo Zubeldia. With his strong emphasis on conditioning and physical play, Zubeldia was able to manage the club to two further titles, 1976 and 1981, as well as regular finishes towards the top of the table. During the Zubeldia era, the heart of the team was César Cueto, central midfielder and team captain from 1979 to 1983. During the 1981 championship season, Cueto was voted the league's player of the year. This successful era ended with Zubeldia's sudden death of a heart attack in January 1982. Nacional remained a power in Colombia, but the death of their manager, the departure of Cueto, and the rise of América de Cali (the Red Devils won five straight championships in the 1980s) left its fans dissatisfied.
Determined to break their stranglehold, the club made a significant change in 1987. First, they appointed Francisco Maturana as manager. A regular in the team's defense during the 1970s, Maturana was considered a rising star in Colombian football management and had just been named manager of the national team. Maturana was thus simultaneously trying to lead the club to a domestic title and assemble a national side that could qualify for the World Cup. The two goals were complementary; Atletico's traditional preference for Colombians over foreigners made them a natural base for Maturana to build his national team upon.
There was also another development of more questionable legality. In the 1980s, Nacional was linked to the Medellín Cartel. Its leader, Pablo Escobar, who was also the most prominent of Colombia's drug lords, was a fan of both football and betting, and also wanted to invest in a local club and find a way to launder his drug money. Although Escobar never took a public role, the money he poured into the club made a major impact. In Maturana's words, "The introduction of drug money into soccer allowed us to bring in great foreign players. It also kept our best players from leaving. Our level of play took off. People saw our situation and said Pablo was involved. But they couldn’t prove it.”
However the club was assembled, by 1987 they certainly had a strong roster featuring a collection of Colombian internationals. In goal was René Higuita, the flamboyant keeper known for his tendency to leave his area and dribble almost to the halfway line. In the defense they had the cool, calm, and collected Andrés Escobar and veteran Luis Fernando Herrera The midfield featured Leonel Álvarez (capped over 100 times for Colombia) and Alexis García (team captain and Medellín native). In the attack, the club could count on John Jairo Tréllez, one of the country's most prolific goal-scorers.
This lineup was good enough to finish second in both the Apertura and Finalización, qualifying for the championship round, in which they finished fourth. The 1988 season was even better, as the club qualified for the championship round again, finishing as runners-up behind Millonarios. That result was good enough to qualify the team for the 1989 Copa Libertadores.
The entire focus of the 1989 campaign was on the Copa Libertadores, which Atlético Nacional hoped to become the first Colombian club to win. In the group stage, Los Verdolagas were placed with fellow Colombian side Millonarios, as well as Ecuadorian clubs Deportivo Quito and Emelec. Two wins and three draws allowed Nacional to advance out of the group stages for the first time in five attempts. They were into the knockout rounds.
In the round of 16, they defeated Racing Club of Argentina by an aggregate score of 3–2. That sent them into the quarterfinals for an all-Colombian matchup with Millonarios. Nacional won the first leg 1–0, then held out for a 1–1 draw in a controversial match in Bogotá, advancing to the semifinals. In the semifinals the team faced Danubio or Uruguay. The away match ended in a 0–0 draw, but four goals from Albeiro Usuriaga sparked a 6–0 rout in the return match. The club was through to the finals.
There, they faced Paraguay's Olimpia. The first leg, played in Asunción, saw Olimpia shoot ahead 2–0 on goals by Rafael Bobadilla and Vidal Sanabria. Nacional answered in the second leg (played in Bogotá on the grounds that the Estadio Atanasio Girardot in Medellín was too small) with a 2–0 win of their own. An own goal from Fider Miño got one, and Albeiro Usuriaga provided the other. The tie went into penalty kicks, where Nacional won 5–4. It was not just the club's first Copa Libertadores title, it was the first Copa Libertadores title for a Colombian club.
The involvement of Pablo Escobar in the club remained strong. Some referees were threatened in the league and even in the Copa Libertadores, for which CONMEBOL banned Colombian clubs from the 1990 Copa Libertadores, with the exception of Nacional who was admitted as champion of the previous edition. However, the team had to play its home matches in Chile. In 1989, the domestic league season was cancelled due to the assassination of referee Álvaro Ortega on October 1. In October, the team played the Supercopa Libertadores and were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Independiente. On 17 December, Nacional played the 1989 Intercontinental Cup against Milan, champion of the 1988–89 European Cup. The result was a 1–0 defeat with a 119-minute free kick goal from Alberigo Evani.
As champion of the Copa Libertadores, Nacional also played the 1989 Copa Interamericana against Pumas UNAM, winner of the 1989 CONCACAF Champions' Cup. The cup was played in 1990 in two legs, with Nacional winning it with an aggregate score of 6–1. They also played the 1990 Recopa Sudamericana against Boca Juniors, champion of the 1989 Supercopa Libertadores (that they also played). The result was a 1–0 defeat.
The next two editions of the Copa Libertadores, 1990 and 1991, Nacional was eliminated in the semifinals, both times by its rival in the 1989 final: Olimpia from Paraguay. In 1991, Nacional won its fifth title in the Primera A after placing first in the final round against América, Junior and Santa Fe. The Verdolagas won two more domestic titles in the 1990s, in 1994 they won their sixth league title after topping the championship round against Millonarios, América, and Independiente Medellín, whilst in 1999 they won their seventh title after beating América on penalties in the final. In 1996, Atlético Nacional was bought by the Organización Ardila Lülle, becoming the first Colombian football club with corporate backing.
Nacional left again the practise of a team with no foreign players in 2004, when the team signed the Venezuelan Jorge Rojas and the Argentine Hugo Morales. Nacional is the only Colombian club that has won the two domestic short-format tournaments in a single year, Apertura and Finalización, since the format was established in 2002, winning the titles of the 2007 and 2013 seasons.
In 2009, Nacional played the worst season of its history, where the team placed 17th in the Torneo Apertura with three victories in eighteen matches. In the Torneo Finalización, the team was seventh, qualifying to the next round. There the team was placed in Group B with Atlético Huila, Deportes Tolima and Santa Fe. The team was second, thus failing to qualify for the finals.
In 2011, Atlético Nacional won their eleventh championship after beating La Equidad over two legs in the finals of the Apertura tournament, but in the following year, Nacional was 12th in the Torneo Apertura and failed to qualify to the next round, while in the Copa Libertadores they were knocked out by Vélez Sársfield in the round of 16. Due to this, the team signed manager Juan Carlos Osorio, who was manager of Once Caldas between 2010 and 2011 and was champion with the team in the 2010 Torneo Finalización. However, Osorio was coming off a poor season with his previous club Puebla, with just two victories in eleven matches. For the Torneo Finalización, Nacional placed fifth and qualified to the next round. There the team could not advance to the finals, placing second of the group conformed by Independiente Medellín, Itagüí and La Equidad. That year, Nacional won its first Copa Colombia title, beating Deportivo Pasto with an aggregate score of 2–0. The team also won the first edition of the Superliga Colombiana, defeating Junior with an aggregate score of 6–1.
The next year, Nacional won for the second time the two tournaments of the league, Apertura and Finalización. In the Apertura, Nacional beat Santa Fe in the finals. In the Finalización, they defeated Deportivo Cali. In total, the team got 29 victories, 16 draws and 7 defeats that year. The team also won its second Copa Colombia title defeating Millonarios with an aggregate score of 3–2. In the 2013 Copa Sudamericana, the team was eliminated by São Paulo in the quarterfinals with an aggregate score of 3–2.
In 2014, the team won the Apertura tournament, winning its third consecutive league title, defeating Junior in the finals with a score of 4–2 on penalties after a 2–2 draw on aggregate score. In the Finalización, the team was eliminated in the semifinals, where they ended in third place in a group comprising Atlético Huila, Once Caldas and Santa Fe. As champion of the previous season, Nacional played against Deportivo Cali for the 2014 Superliga Colombiana. The team lost 4–3 on penalties after tying 2–2 on aggregate.
In the 2014 Copa Libertadores, Nacional was eliminated in the quarterfinals at the hands of Defensor Sporting. In the 2014 Copa Sudamericana, Nacional faced River Plate in the finals. The first leg, played in Medellín, was a 1–1 draw. The second leg, played in Buenos Aires, was won by River Plate with a score of 2–0.
In the 2015 Torneo Apertura, Nacional was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Deportivo Cali. After the tournament ended, Osorio left the team after getting signed by São Paulo, being replaced by Reinaldo Rueda, who previously managed the Ecuador national team and got them to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, where they were third in a group conformed by France, Switzerland and Honduras (the latter also was taken to the World Cup in 2010 by himself). In the Torneo Finalización, Nacional was champion, defeating Junior in the finals on penalties with a score of 3–2 after a 2–2 draw on aggregate. Jefferson Duque was top goalscorer of the team and the tournament with 15 goals. With this title, Nacional became the team with the most league titles with fifteen and a total of twenty-five titles including international tournaments.
The start of 2016 brought a second Superliga Colombiana title, beating Deportivo Cali, thus qualifying for the 2016 Copa Sudamericana. Nacional placed second in the 2016 Torneo Apertura with 39 points, just one point behind Independiente Medellín. With this result, the team qualified to the quarterfinals, where they faced Rionegro Águilas. Nacional advanced to the semifinals after winning on penalties. In the semifinals, Nacional was eliminated by Junior. The team tied 1–1 on aggregate and lost 4–2 on penalties.
In the 2016 Copa Libertadores, Nacional was first of its group, winning five of its six matches conceding no goals. The group was comprised by Huracán, Peñarol and Sporting Cristal. Nacional faced Huracán again in the round of 16. In the first leg in Buenos Aires the teams got a 0–0 draw, while in the second leg in Medellín Nacional won 4–2, conceding its first goals of the tournament. In the quarterfinals, they faced Rosario Central. The first leg ended with Nacional's first defeat, with Walter Montoya scoring the only goal in the fifth minute. In the second leg in Medellín, Marco Ruben scored a penalty goal in the eighth minute, thus forcing Nacional to score at least three goals to advance, something they accomplished. The first goal was scored by Macnelly Torres in injury time of the first half. In the second half Alejandro Guerra scored the second in the 50th minute and Orlando Berrío scored the goal to eliminate Rosario in the last minute of the match. In the semifinals, Nacional faced Brazilian club São Paulo. The team won both matches, the first a 2–0 win in the Estádio do Morumbi with a brace of Miguel Borja, who was bought by Nacional after becoming the top goalscorer of the Torneo Apertura with 19 goals in 21 matches with Cortuluá, and was playing his first match with the team. The second leg was a 2–1 win, with an early goal of Jonathan Calleri for the Brazilian team and again with a brace of Miguel Borja for the local team. Nacional reached the finals of the Copa Libertadores for the first time since 1995, where they won their second cup, the very first Colombian squad to win the competition multiple times, in a 2–1 aggregate victory against Independiente del Valle.
In 2016, Nacional also won its third Copa Colombia title after beating Junior in the finals with an aggregate score of 3–1, becoming the most successful club in the tournament.
The participation of Nacional in the 2016 Copa Sudamericana began on 11 August, facing Peruvian club Deportivo Municipal at Estadio Alejandro Villanueva in Lima for the first stage. The team beat the Peruvian side 5–0. In the second leg, the team got a 1–0 victory, advancing to the second stage. In this round, Nacional faced Bolívar of Bolivia. In La Paz, the club got a 1–1 draw. At home, the club won 1–0 with a goal from Miguel Borja, his second in a row. In the round of 16, Nacional eliminated Paraguayan club Sol de América. They got a 1–1 draw away and a 2–0 win at home. In the quarterfinals, the team faced Brazilian club Coritiba. The first match was played in Curitiba. Borja scored a 13th-minute goal; however, Coritiba's Iago Dias scored the equalizer goal in the last minutes of the match. In the second leg, in Medellín, Nacional got a 3–1 victory. Coritiba started winning the match, with a 43rd-minute free-kick goal from César Eduardo González. Nacional came back and got the victory with a hat-trick from Borja, who became the goalscorer of the tournament with six goals. In the semifinals, Nacional faced Paraguayan Cerro Porteño, who had eliminated two Colombian sides in the previous rounds, Santa Fe (the winner of the previous edition) and Independiente Medellín. The first leg, played in Asunción, ended in a 1–1 draw (the same result Nacional got in their last three matches away). The second leg was a 0–0 draw and Nacional advanced to the finals for the third time on away goals.
For the finals, Nacional had to face Brazilian team Chapecoense. It was the first final in an international competition for the Brazilian side, who had eliminated Cuiabá, Independiente, Junior and San Lorenzo to reach that round. The matches for the finals were scheduled to be played on November 30 in Medellín and December 7 in Curitiba. However, on November 28, two days before the first leg, LaMia Flight 2933 crashed in Cerro Gordo, La Unión, just a few miles from Medellín, with the Chapecoense team on board. 71 people died including 19 Chapecoense players. Because of that, the finals were suspended. Atlético Nacional has requested CONMEBOL to award Chapecoense with the title. On the planned date of the match, Nacional and the City Council of Medellín organised a memorial to honor the victims of the tragedy. About 45,000 people were present inside the stadium and thousand more in the streets. On December 5, CONMEBOL awarded Chapecoense the title of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana, as requested by Atlético Nacional, who received the "CONMEBOL Centenario Fair Play" award for their gesture.
In the 2016 Torneo Finalización, Nacional placed first with 37 points and qualified for the quarterfinals. The team was eliminated in the semifinals by Santa Fe (who won the tournament beating Deportes Tolima in the finals): the first match ended in a 1–1 draw but the second was a 0–4 defeat, with Nacional playing with its youth squad due to its first-team squad competing in the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup.
Atlético Nacional qualified to the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup as the champion of the 2016 Copa Libertadores, representing South America in the competition. The team began its participation in the semifinals, facing Japanese team Kashima Antlers, who defeated Nacional 3–0. The first goal of the match, a penalty scored by Shoma Doi, became the first use of video replay for awarding a penalty in a FIFA competition. Nacional got the third place after beating Mexican Club América, who lost against Real Madrid in the Semifinals. The teams got a 2–2 draw, so they had to determine the winner on penalties, where Nacional got a 4–3 victory.
Atlético Nacional got its first title of 2017 after beating Brazilian team Chapecoense in the Recopa Sudamericana. The Brazilian side won the first leg with a 2–1 score; however, Atlético Nacional got a 4–1 victory in the second leg, achieving a 5–3 win on aggregate therefore winning the tournament.
In the 2017 Copa Libertadores, Atlético Nacional crashed out of the competition in the group stage. They were last of its group, in which the club faced Argentine Estudiantes de La Plata, Brazilian Botafogo and Ecuadorian Barcelona and ended with six points (two victories and four defeats). As the fourth out of four in the group, they were not eligible to participate in the second stage of the 2017 Copa Sudamericana, which would have required them to place at least third in the group. Despite Atlético Nacional won its sixteenth league championship in the 2017 Apertura, Reinaldo Rueda left his post as manager on 21 June 2017, being replaced by Spanish manager Juan Manuel Lillo.
Atlético Nacional has had a long rivalry with local team Independiente Medellín. It is considered one of the most important rivalries in Colombia. The derby is known under the name of Clásico Paisa and is recognised by FIFA as an important match-up in the country. Currently both teams are considered among the top teams in Colombia.
Badge and colorsEdit
Atlético Nacional's current badge was adopted in 2000. The badge consists of a rectangle elongated downward, with the initials A and N inside, and the tower of a castle above symbolizing "grandeur, tradition, strength and hierarchy". The colors of the team are derived from the flags of the Antioquia Department and the city of Medellín.
The club's main nickname, Verdolagas (purslanes) was coined early in the club's history. This plant is endemic to the Paisa region since pre-Columbian times. The plant blooms a diminutive yellow, white or red flower; the white variety is the most common in the region, giving the color scheme to the team. It is also noteworthy that Antioquia has a great tradition regarding the planting of flowers, most notoriously during the Festival of Flowers.
Atlético Nacional plays its local games at the Atanasio Girardot Stadium, which is part of the Atanasio Girardot Sports Complex and is owned by the Municipality of Medellín. The stadium is shared with Independiente Medellín, rival of the team. It is located in the west of the city and has a capacity of 45,943 spectators. It was inaugurated on 19 March 1953 in a friendly tournament between Nacional, Alianza Lima, Flamengo and Deportivo Cali. The first game was played between Atlético Nacional and Alianza Lima with a 2–2 draw.
Before 1948, when the team was known as Unión Indulana Foot-Ball Club, they played its local games at Los Libertadores Racecourse. With the creation of the professional league, they moved to San Fernando Racecourse in Itagüí, where they played until 1953.
- Copa Libertadores: 19 appearances
- Copa Merconorte: 4 appearances
- Copa Sudamericana: 8 appearances
- Copa Interamericana: 2 appearances
- Winners (2): 1989, 1995
- Recopa Sudamericana: 2 appearances
- Intercontinental Cup: 1 appearance
- Runners-up (1): 1989
- Copa Simón Bolívar: 2 appearance
- Runners-up (1): 1971
- FIFA Club World Cup: 1 appearance
- Third Place (1): 2016
Performance in international competitionsEdit
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Out on loanEdit
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
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