When Atletico Madrid's controversial ex-president shut down their academy ... and lost Raul to Real

Team 33's Raf Diallo looks back on a drastic decision from 1992

Raul, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid

Raul Gonzalez stands during a goodbye ceremony at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Monday, July 26, 2010. Raul made his Real Madrid debut as a 17-year-old in 1994 and spent his entire career at the club, a span that includes three Champions League triumphs, six Spanish league titles and two Intercontinental Cups. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

If you look at the Atletico Madrid of today, the side which has led the club to two Champions League finals in three years has a significant self-produced core.

Returning veteran Fernando Torres, key playmaker Koke, youthful attacking midfielder Oliver Torres, midfielder Saul Niguez and captain Gabi are all players who have either come through or spent some time at Atleti's productive academy. Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea is another player who progressed through the youth ranks there.

Yet all the way back in 1992, the club's hugely controversial and "demagogic" former owner Jesus Gil saw fit to shut down the factory production line.

This was before the club famously went on to win the La Liga-Copa del Reu double in 1996 as we discussed on this week's Newstalk Team 33 show with Madrid-based ESPN writer Eduardo Alvarez (you can listen to that just below): 

Gil, a businessman and politician with extremely controversial views (often with an extreme right-wing tilt), was "a president who evoked both that people either hated him or loved him - no middle ground" according to Eduardo.

The late president, who died in 2004 at the age of 71, deemed that the academy did not merit the expense lavished on it.

"They were losing a lot of money, that's why he closed the academy," says Eduardo, who also felt that many of Gil's decisions seemed "outrageous" after a time. 

But that drastic decision to shut it down had some negative consequences. 

Jesus Gil. Picture by: Neal Simpson / EMPICS Sport

Real Madrid legend Raul was just 15 at the time and had spent two years in the Atletico academy up to that point.

"He was already breaking every single goalscoring record in the lower divisions for Atletico and he became a star at Real Madrid," says Eduardo.

Indeed Raul won a National Cadete title with Atletico in his second year in the academy before making the switch to Real's youth ranks when Gil made his decision.

And his impact in Real's C team was immediate. Take the 1994-95 season for example - the campaign before Atletico won the double at senior level before relegation just four years later - Raul netted 16 league goals in just seven games.

And between 1994 and 2010 when he left the club for Schalke, Raul scored over 300 goals in all competitions for Real, particularly shining in the Champions League.

So if Gil could have seen the future, his decision to shut down the Atletico academy in 1992 might have been a bit different.

You can read more from The World Is A Ball series every Wednesday on Newstalk.com. To find past articles, head to the Team 33 show page.