Atletico celebrates Europa League title on streets of Madrid

Atletico Madrid supporters light flares as they celebrate their team's Europa League tittle in Madrid, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. Atletico defeated Marseille 3-0 in the final and clinches its third Europa League title. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

MADRID (AP) Thousands of fans lined the streets to salute Atletico Madrid players as they paraded through the Spanish capital Friday to celebrate the team’s Europa League triumph.

Players, coaches and club officials met with the city mayor and the community president before parading through some of the city’s main roads and plazas on an open bus.

They ended the night on the Fountain of Neptune – the club’s traditional celebration spot – where a stage and large screens were set up to welcome the players. Each team member was introduced to loud chants from the crowd packing the plaza, and the team’s captain Gabi and other players draped an Atletico scarf around the Neptune statue.

Antoine Griezmann heard fans and his teammates call for him to stay at the club for another season. Griezmann, who scored twice in the team’s 3-0 win over Marseille on Wednesday, is rumored to be on his way out of Atletico.

Barcelona is reportedly interested in signing the France forward.

Fernando Torres, one of the club’s greatest idols, is definitely leaving at the end of the season. The veteran forward received some of the loudest cheers from the crowd, along with popular coach Diego Simeone.

”I’ve won a lot of things in my career, but without a doubt this is the best one,” said the 34-year-old Torres, who won a Champions League trophy with Chelsea plus two European Championships and a World Cup with Spain. ”I remember when I was an 11-year-old and I was here as a fan celebrating the team’s double in 1996. At the time I had a dream of one day being here where I am right now. To all kids who have a dream, nothing is impossible, especially if you are an Atletico fan.”

Atletico president Enrique Cerezo, in a speech after meeting with local officials, proudly foresaw Atletico ”playing the Champions League final in our stadium” next year. The final will be held at the club’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

”We want to be back here in a year celebrating the title,” he said.

Atletico was eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League this year after having lost two finals to city rival Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016.

Atletico needs a home draw against Eibar on Sunday to secure second place in the Spanish league, behind champion Barcelona.

Atletico’s women’s team, which won the Spanish league, paraded along with the men’s team.

Thousands of Atletico fans had already packed the Fountain of Neptune plaza shortly after the team won its third Europa League title.

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