Liverpool must navigate a tricky round of 16 tie against Atletico Madrid if they wish to retain their Champions League crown.

In the last 10 years, few European sides have caused the casual fan to puff their cheeks in acknowledgement of the task ahead like Diego Simeone’s side, known for their work rate, organisation, ruthlessness and, it must be remembered, quality.

But the aura of invincibility has slipped somewhat this season; having not finished outside the top three since 2011/12 – Simeone’s maiden season – Atletico currently sit fourth after 24 games played, 13 points off the pace.

Alarmingly for a side never famous for wounding opponents with big scores, Atletico have mustered only 25 goals this season – the same as 14th placed Alaves and 36 fewer than Liverpool (after 26 games).

Part of the reason behind their tepid front line was the conclusion, to the side’s detriment, of Atletico’s seemingly endless struggle to retain the services of Antoine Griezmann.

Desperate not to miss out on the next big thing, Atletico spent the vast majority of the Frenchman’s considerable transfer fee to bring Joao Felix to the Metropolitano Stadium.

But like Griezmann at Barcelona himself, Felix has failed to match the most modest of expectations; even the most ardent defender of young potential (different league, new system, hefty price tag) would admit that the Portuguese’s return of four goals all season (two in the league, two in this competition) is on the low side for a €126million (£107million) investment.

Atletico were able to fund Felix’ transfer as mentioned by the sale of Griezmann but the club have enjoyed a remarkable financial rise in the last decade under Simeone’s guidance, in much the same way Jurgen Klopp has turned Liverpool into one of the richest teams in the league.

Revenues that hovered around the €100million mark back in 2011/12 have since snowballed to more than €380million in 2018/19, driven by the team’s success in European competition.

Like Liverpool, the side have enjoyed remarkable success in Europe during this time, winning two Europa Leagues and playing two Champions League finals.

Liverpool have gone even better, seeing revenues increase from around £200million to more than £530milliion (per Deloitte’s Football Money League) in the same timeframe.

Meanwhile, Atletico’s success has allowed the team to turn a profit as it renovated and moved into the stadium it has called home since 2017.

Both teams have a competitive but sustainable wage bill.

According to the most up to date figures, Liverpool’s was much than their rival, at around £264million in the season they lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid, compared to Atletico’s £178million [converted from €210million at the current exchange rate].

But this was less than 60% of Liverpool’s turnover; Atletico’s was just above that figure.

Like Liverpool, also, Atletico have proved themselves excellent sellers in the transfer market, moving players, mostly, on at the right time in their development cycle without damaging the quality of the first team – until this season, it would appear.

Had this fixture been played a year ago, Atletico could call on Lucas Hernandez, Rodri and Gelson Martins, to name a few, as well as Griezmann himself.

Veterans Diego Godin and Juanfran could also have featured and their experience is missed by Simeono.

Instead, Atletico underwent a vast rebuild, declaring a profit of €86.4million on player sales.

Liverpool’s most recent financials show a £124million gain on player sales, mostly Philippe Coutinho’s big money move to Barcelona that hasn’t quite bore fruit.

For last season, that figure will fall dramatically, with only approximately £30million or so set to be recognised following the sales of Dominic Solanke and Danny Ward, alongside various loan deals.

Meanwhile, a recent study measuring the financial power of both clubs – using five key financial metrics to reach a conclusion – has little to choose between the two sides.

Soccerex’ Football Finance Index for 2020 ranks Liverpool as the eighth team in the world in financial terms and Atletico in 11th, based on playing assets, tangible assets (i.e. physical property like the ground and stadium), cash in the bank, potential owner investment and net debt.

Liverpool outstrip Atletico in terms of the value of their squad (€1.07billion vs €873million) and owner wealth (€2.3billion vs €1.8billion); but Atletico’s recent move into the Metropolitano Stadium means their physical property is worth much more than Liverpool’s (€379million vs €199million).

The flip side, of course, is that Atletico have a considerably higher net debt than the Reds (€538million vs €295million).

What’s more, Liverpool have in recent days furthered their plans to expand the capacity of Anfield north of 60,000 by investing around £60million to build out the Anfield Road End.

The millions earned from the Champions League in the last three years on top of the continued strength of their domestic form ensure Liverpool are in a far stronger financial position than their rivals, with much to be excited about in the transfer market as the countdown to the summer window begins.

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