Atletico kick off busy Asian summer
Atletico Madrid kicked off a busy summer of Asian tours by top European football clubs on Monday when they arrived in Singapore fresh from downing city rivals Real to win the Spanish Cup.
Atletico, brandishing the trophy they won in dramatic fashion on Friday, are making a whistle-stop visit despite still being involved in Spain's La Liga, in which they will play their penultimate game this weekend.
"The first thing to do is to rest and sleep," cautioned their manager Diego Simeone, at a packed press conference where he appeared next to the gleaming trophy.
"It's a very good feeling to have the feeling of winning two days ago and here, two days after, in Singapore on a high note," added the former Argentina international.
Atletico will play a Singapore select team on the artificial turf of the wealthy, Southeast Asian city-state's 8 000-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.
They have enjoyed a heady weekend, after they won 2-1 against Real –whose coach Jose Mourinho and star player Cristiano Ronaldo were both sent off – and went on an open-top bus parade in front of thousands of fans in central Madrid.
"It's a dream come true after such a good season," their captain, Gabriel Fernandez, said of the win against Real. Atletico have also secured third place in La Liga behind Barcelona and Real.
"The team achieved a good position and this is the best way to end the season, beating our arch-rivals Real Madrid in the King's (Spanish) Cup. All the players were very happy to finish the season on a high note."
Atletico, whose prolific striker Radamel Falcao is attracting strong interest from other clubs, are at the head of the queue this year as the some of Europe's best teams head east to bolster their ranks of Asian fans.
Barcelona and Manchester United, the champions of Spain and England respectively, and Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal are all expected to draw large crowds to their friendly games and publicity sessions in the coming weeks.
Manchester United will play their first games under new coach David Moyes, while Arsenal will break new ground by becoming the first English Premier League team to play in Vietnam.
Pre-season tours have become a staple of the big European teams, who are closely followed by Asian fans and draw significant income from the sale of TV rights and merchandise across the region.