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Atlético bridge 40-year European Cup gap

A record 40 years have passed since Club Atlético de Madrid last reached a European Cup semi. We look back at some of the men who blazed the trail in 1974.

Luis Aragonés enjoyed success as a player and coach with Atlético
Luis Aragonés enjoyed success as a player and coach with Atlético ©Sportsfile

Club Atlético de Madrid's superb run to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals has stirred up memories of the side's trophy-laden heyday during the 1960s and 70s, which included a memorable appearance in the 1974 European Champion Clubs' Cup showpiece.

The 40-year gap between last-four appearances is a tournament record – beating Borussia Dortmund's previous 33-year hiatus between 1964 and 1997. With that in mind, UEFA.com recalls several key members of the Atléti team who went on to feature in the Brussels decider against FC Bayern München, which the Spanish side eventually lost after a replay.

Juan Carlos Lorenzo, coach
A former Atlético forward, 'El Toto', as Lorenzo was known, arrived at the newly crowned Liga champions in 1973 charged with the task of inspiring the Colchoneros to European Cup success. Although his side came agonisingly close, after being pegged back by Bayern with the last kick of the game in the original final, the ex-Argentina coach – famed for his superstitious nature – was replaced by Luis Aragonés the following season.

Miguel Reina, goalkeeper
Father of current SSC Napoli keeper Pepe, Reina Sr – who signed for Atlético from FC Barcelona – missed just one game in the Rojiblancos' 1973/74 run. The first goal he conceded in the tournament was Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck's extra-time equaliser against final opponents Bayern in the 1-1 draw. There was little he could do as the Bavarian giants ran out 4-0 winners two days later.  

Francisco Melo, defender
Melo began his Atlético career as a midfielder but later excelled at right-back. The Spanish international played 192 top-flight games for Atlético before going on to lift a league championship with RC Deportivo La Coruña as a coaching assistant to his former Atlético team-mate Javier Irureta in 1999/2000. 

José Luis Capón, defender
Another of the team's three-time Liga winners, Capón spent ten seasons at the club, saying: "I was born Atlético, lived Atlético and was also lucky to play for Atlético." Looking back at that fateful 1974 final, the full-back remarked: "It was nobody's fault that we drew, [but] it was a pity as we practically had the European Cup in our hands."

Eusebio Bejarano, defender
This strong, intelligent and versatile defender was once courted by Real Madrid CF before being snapped up by Atlético in 1968. He scored his side's second goal in the second round first-leg win away to FC Dinamo Bucureşti.

Ramón Armando Heredia, defender
An Argentinian centre-back who arrived at Atlético along with coach Lorenzo, 'El Cacho' became a crowd favourite at the Vicente Calderón before moving on to Paris Saint-Germain. He returned to coach Atlético for two brief spells in 1993.

Adelardo, midfielder
The club's record appearance holder, Adelardo scored 113 goals in 511 games during his 17 years in the Spanish capital. The Spanish international also picked up three Liga crowns, an Intercontinental Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and five Copa del Rey titles with the club. "Everything you achieve in football takes a huge amount of effort," he once said.

Ignacio Salcedo, midfielder
A Madrid-native and Atlético supporter, Salcedo came up through the club's ranks before breaking into the first team. Once there, he scored 19 goals in 167 Liga appearances. His efforts included the all-important extra-time strike that sent his team past Galatasaray AȘ in the first round.

Javier Irureta, midfielder
'Jabo', as Irureta is known, played 239 games for Atlético as an attacking midfielder in his eight seasons at the club. He moved on to Athletic Club following his time at Atlético and would endure more European heartbreak when the Basque outfit lost the 1977 UEFA Cup final against Juventus. As a coach, he won the Liga and a Copa del Rey with Deportivo, where he also narrowly missed out on a place in the 2004 UEFA Champions League final following a semi-final loss to FC Porto.

José Armando Ufarte, midfielder
Ufarte emigrated to Brazil at an early age with his family and went on to play for CR Flamengo before moving back to Spain with Atlético. A notable scorer of several key goals during his 323 games with the club, the Spanish international would later go on to assist Luis Aragonés during his country's UEFA EURO 2008 success.

Luis Aragonés, forward
An icon of Spanish football, Aragonés's extra-time strike almost won the European Cup for Atlético in 1974 before Schwarzenbeck's goal changed the course of history. Following a successful playing career with the Liga side – with whom he notched 123 top-flight efforts – the 'Wise Man of Hortaleza' led the team to Intercontinental Cup and Liga glory as a coach, before his UEFA EURO 2008 win with Spain sealed a glittering career.   

José Eulogio Gárate, forward
The only Atlético player to win three consecutive Pichichi trophies as Liga top scorer (albeit jointly), Gárate hit 110 goals in 231 Liga games and registered twice during the team's 1974 final run. Able to play on the wing as well as up front, Gárate – a Spanish international – joined Atlético in 1966 and retired 11 years later with a knee injury.