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Legendary Atlético defender Godín announces retirement

The Uruguayan is one of the most transformative figures in club history.

Soccer - La Liga - FC Barcelona vs. Club Atletico de Madrid
Godín celebrating at Camp Nou on May 17, 2014 — the day his 49th-minute header won LaLiga.
Photo by AOP.Press/Corbis via Getty Images

Former Atlético Madrid defender Diego Godín retired Monday, calling time on a decorated 20-year career in football — including nine unforgettable seasons in the Spanish capital.

Atlético players such as Koke, Saúl Ñíguez, and Stefan Savić — as well as head coach Diego Simeone — paid tribute to Godín following his final game for Argentinian side Velez Sarsfield (which was unfortunately marred by violence). The longtime Uruguay international finished his career with 788 appearances for club and country, during which he scored 46 goals and won 10 trophies.

But Godín will forever be associated with Atlético and Cholismo. Godín’s 389 appearances for the club were the most for a foreign-born player until Jan Oblak surpassed him last season. He won eight trophies at Atleti, where he established himself as one of the top center-backs of his generation after Simeone’s arrival in 2011.

Atletico Madrid Training And Press Conference Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Godín struggled during his first season in Madrid following an €8 million move from Villarreal but quickly became a key player under Simeone — and he rewarded the Argentine’s faith in him by marshaling the Atlético defense for almost a decade. Godín made 277 appearances in LaLiga and turned in the header that ended Los Rojiblancos’ 18-year title drought — part of a season in which he scored a career-high eight goals in all competitions.

Godín won the UEFA Europa League twice with Atlético and claimed the UEFA Super Cup three times — lifting it as club captain the final time, in 2018. He won the Copa del Rey in 2013 against eternal rival Real Madrid and scored Atleti’s lone goal against Los Blancos in the 2014 UEFA Champions League final, although European Cup success ultimately eluded Godín during his Atleti career.

After leaving the club on a free transfer in 2019, Godín joined Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan and played in another Europa League final the following season. He played the following season-and-a-half at Cagliari before returning to South America, where he made a handful of appearances for Brazilian side Atlético Mineiro and played parts of two seasons in Argentina.

2016-17 La Liga - Atletico de Madrid vs Sevilla FC

Although I’ve attempted to do so, to quantify Godín’s contributions to Atlético de Madrid is ultimately fruitless. He is clearly among the most important figures in club history, a transformative player without whom the Cholismo philosophy may not have taken root at the Vicente Calderón.

Godín was never the biggest defender, nor was he the strongest. But he always showed up for a battle, exhibiting incredible drive and determination in all situations. Godín’s blend of composure, intelligence, aerial prowess, and impeccable positioning saw him excel at the heart of Atlético’s renowned back four. He was a consistent, dominant central defender — arguably the world’s best — through two FIFA World Cup cycles.

While Simeone knows how fortunate he was to field Godín, we were so lucky to be able to watch him take care of business at the back for nine years. All the best to El Faraón in retirement.