Atletico Madrid end link-up with Atletico Kolkata over youth differences
Atletico Madrid chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin says that the La Liga club have ended their association with Indian franchise Atletico Kolkata due to disagreements over youth development.
Atletico were involved with the Indian Super League club since their founding in 2014, along with other investors including former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly. Kolkata have won two of the three ISL titles played to date, with former Atletico players Antonio Lopez and Jose Francisco Molina as their head coaches in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Earlier this month, the West Bengal club's principal owner Sanjiv Goenka announced that they would now be known as ATK -- short for Amar Tomar Kolkata (Yours and Mine Kolkata) -- as the relationship with the La Liga outfit was over.
In an interview with Atletico's official website, Gil Marin said that differences of opinion with their partners in Calcutta over youth development had led to the break.
"We are going to promote those franchises where Atletico has the majority of the capital that allows it to be able to develop the image of Atletico de Madrid through its academy and the work in professional football," Gil Marin said. "This means putting an immediate stop to the franchise in India, since the majority holder of Atletico Kolkata does not allow the development of the image of Atletico de Madrid through our academy in India.
"India is an incredible country, with a great potential. Atletico has done a great job in Calcutta. We have managed to make Atletico de Madrid loved and recognised, but we need to develop it there, working, in addition to a professional team, with the children through our academy.
"And this is something that we cannot do with the majority shareholder of the franchise. But we want to continue being close to all the fans of Calcutta and of the whole of India."
Business magnate Goenka said last week that the split was amicable, saying he would buy out Atletico's 25 percent share, adding that the Spanish club had previously provided technical assistance but no financial support.
"Let me be very up front," he said. "Atletico de Madrid have not invested a penny to date. It was anyway funded by us not them. There are two aspects -- one is financial and the other is technical. They had 25 percent which they would sell to us, to me. So it does not make a difference whether they are there or not. We have with us a competent technical team."
Former England and Manchester United forward Teddy Sheringham has been appointed as ATK's head coach, with ex-Crewe and Sheffield Wednesday defender Ashley Westwood as technical director.
Atletico confirmed last March they had taken a share in Mexican second-tier outfit Atletico San Luis -- reported to be 50 percent -- as part of a global expansion of franchise clubs supported by their Chinese investors Wanda.
Diego Simeone's men were in Mexico last week to play their first preseason game of the summer, a 0-0 draw against Deportivo Toluca near Mexico City. The squad did not go to see their sister club in the city of San Luis, 400 kilometres to the north, despite previous claims that a visit was planned.
In the summer of 2016, Atletico formalised the purchase of 34.6 percent of the shares of Ligue 2 club Lens, with a Luxembourg based company called Solferino having the remaining 65 percent in a deal overseen by the French bankruptcy courts.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan