Fernando Torres and the rest of the Atletico Madrid stars thrilled hundreds of their fans when they arrived in Shanghai ahead of Tuesday’s Wanda International Football Tournament match against Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Shanghai SIPG.
On Saturday Atletico won a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw with J.League side Sagan Tosu to maintaintheir unbeaten pre-season run, having won 2-0 against both Real Oviedo and Numancia in recent friendlies in Spain.
Atletico’s showdown with SIPG at Shanghai Stadium will be the second and last match of their Asian tour and marks nine years since the Spanish giants last competed in Shanghai.
Fernando Torres – one of two players, along with Gabi, to return from the 2006 squad – was the star attraction as Atletico arrived at their hotel, although Chinese fans also showed strong support for head coach Diego Simeone, club captain Gabi, France striker Antoine Griezmann and young Chinese striker Xu Xin.
“Torres!!” Samantha, 23, screamed, when asked why she was at the hotel, proudly wearing an Atletico shirt with her hero’s name. “I have loved Torres for seven years.”
Wang Fei, a 22-year-oldstudent, trumped his friends by saying he had been a Torres fan for nine years and also by revealing that he’d made more than a trip across the city to see his heroes.
“I have come from Inner Mongolia province. I have come just for this, to watch Atletico,” Wang said. “I have never been to a match like this. I’m really looking forward to it.
“I love Torres, but I also want to watch Griezmann, Koke, Gabi. I have been preparing for this match for two months. I’m so excited. I’m staying in this hotel – it’s expensive, so this is a big trip for me.”
Argentine starlet Luciano Vietto, Belgium winger Yannick Carrasco and Montenegro centre-back Stefan Savic – who scored an own goal in Japan – are among the new Atletico Madrid signings set to face SIPG on Tuesday evening.
Current Spain internationals Juanfran and Koke, who scored against Sagan Tosu, and Portugal midfielder Tiago Mendes are also among the squad’s leading players.
Colombia striker Jackson Martinez and Brazil left-back Filipe Luis, the club’s most recent signings, and Uruguay centre-backs Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez did not travel with the squad to Asia. All four played in the Copa America.
The Wanda Group, which owns 20% of Atletico Madrid, is helping organize Atletico’s visit to China.