UEFA Europa League winners Club Atlético de Madrid returned home to rapturous acclaim on Thursday, with their reception just as vociferous as when they triumphed in 2010.
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The scenes may have been similar to those of two years ago, when Club Atlético de Madrid last carried the UEFA Europa League trophy through the streets of the Spanish capital, yet there was no less enthusiasm this time around with the city resplendent in red and white to greet the returning heroes of Bucharest.
There were those – including assistant coach Germán Burgos – who admitted to not having slept since captains Antonio López and Gabi lifted the trophy after the team's 3-0 final victory against Athletic Club at the National Arena on Wednesday.
However, despite the fatigue, the enthusiasm to share the win with their fans was evident throughout the victorious squad from the moment they arrived into Barajas airport's terminal three at midday.
Following a celebratory lunch, the players and coaching staff departed for the Vicente Calderón, where they boarded an open-top bus emblazoned with the words 'Champions – three European titles in two years – it's a wonderful life'. Club president Enrique Cerezo said it could get better if the Rojiblancos add a second UEFA Super Cup title in August to that won in 2010.
In reality, the celebrations began on the streets of Madrid on Wednesday night, with fireworks audible immediately after Diego fired in Atlético's third goal of the contest five minutes from time. That strike capped a memorable evening for Diego Simeone's side, who had largely controlled the showpiece thanks to Falcao's first-half double.
"These players have shown immense hunger and dedication since I arrived here [last December]," the winning coach explained at Madrid Council headquarters on Thursday. "They really make this club proud and we owe them so much gratitude.
"They have been putting in a huge effort, playing Thursday and Sunday for long periods. Give them a round of applause because that's what they deserve. We hope we can continue to generate more of the happiness we have seen today."
Madrid mayor Ana Botella told the players they had the right "to call this tournament your own" after recording their second UEFA Europa League success since the competition's inception. "One of the eternal questions for fans of this club is 'Why am I an Atléti supporter?'," she continued. "Well, that was answered last night with a great footballing performance and a fantastic victory."
Having gracefully congratulated Athletic on reaching the final, Atlético's president added: "We are proud to see so many people in red and white out on the streets celebrating; we certainly hope this won't be the last time."
For the victors there is still one more goal left to achieve this season and before the team headed to complete their route at the traditional last stop, the Neptune fountain, Cerezo reminded all present that there was hard work ahead for the players before this weekend's crucial Liga encounter with Villarreal CF.
"Our final challenge is to qualify for [the] UEFA Champions League [and I am confident because] we know that these players are capable of anything."