Power of simeone

David Nash takes a look at the im­pact of the Atletico Madrid man­ager – and won­ders where he will go next…

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The im­pact of the Atletico man­ager

IT’S some­times hard to as­sess a man­ager’s cre­den­tials when they’ve only man­aged just one Euro­pean club, but for Diego Simeone this need not ap­ply- his im­pact on Atletico Madrid has been trans­for­ma­tive.

We al­most take it for granted now that Atleti will be present in the lat­ter stages of the Cham­pi­ons League – two fi­nals and a semi in the last four sea­sons – but not so long ago this seemed like a pipe dream for the Ro­ji­blan­cos.

There can be no doubt­ing it, he is up there with the best man­agers in the game at this time and it is per­haps sur­pris­ing that he has not been courted more by the con­ti­nent’s elite over the past few years.

For many years you could have for­given the faith­ful at Vi­cente Calderon for hold­ing some­thing of an in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex when it came to their bet­ter-known, star-stud­ded neigh­bours across town.

With Diego Simeone at the helm, this soon evap­o­rated. Go­ing in to the Copa del Rey fi­nal in May 2013, Atleti had not de­feated Real Madrid since 1999, an epic run of painful derby fail­ings.

But that des­per­ate record came to end in the fortress that is the Bern­abeu, an ex­tra­time goal clinch­ing a pre­cious cup win against their big­gest ri­vals, and in said en­emy’s own back yard to boot.

It was the club’s first tri­umph in the com­pe­ti­tion for 17 years.What hap­pened soon after was re­mark­able - be­tween March 2014 and April 2015, they went nine suc­ces­sive matches with­out los­ing to Real in 90 min­utes, the crown­ing tri­umph a 4-0 de­mo­li­tion in a league match at the Calderon.

Had there been a power shift in the Span­ish cap­i­tal? Look­ing at the mat­ter now in 2017 shows that hasn’t been the case, but the fact that the ques­tion was even on peo­ple’s lips was an achieve­ment in it­self. Fol­low­ing on from the afore­men­tioned cup win, even bet­ter things were to come. Twelve months after that mem­o­rable fi­nal, Simeone’s team stunned Europe. Re­mark­ably, they broke La Liga’s Barcelona-Real Madrid du­op­oly that had stood for a whole decade. It could hardly have been sealed in a more dra­matic fash­ion. At the Nou Camp for the cam­paign’s fi­nal fix­ture, 1-0 down deep into the sec­ond half and the league look­ing set to slip away, Diego Godin’s header saved the day, a 1-1 draw enough to con­firm the Ro­ji­blan­cos as do­mes­tic cham­pi­ons for the first time in 18 years. As a re­sult of his team’s ex­ploits and su­perb in­di­vid­u­als, Simeone has had to cope with los­ing key per­son­nel over the years, such as Filipe Luis (since re­turned), Diego Costa, Radamel Fal­cao and Arda Tu­ran. Each time, the re­cruit­ment has been such that the loss is not felt as harshly as it should have been. Cur­rent star man An­toine Griez­mann looks set to stay put now this sum­mer, but as mag­i­cal as he is, there re­mains a feel­ing that the de­par­ture wouldn’t have been ter­mi­nal for the team any­way. This is an­other ex­am­ple of how the fomer Ar­gentina in­ter­na­tional – he earned more than a cen­tury of caps – has evolved his charges over five and a half years in Madrid. They’ve re­cently be­come more ex­pan­sive and ad­ven­tur­ous, some­thing the side have pre­vi­ously been crit­i­cised for not hav­ing in their ar­moury.

At the same time, the steel and tenac­ity that has be­come this team’s hall­mark re­mains.

Last year, Ital­ian pa­per La Gazzetta dello Sport pub­lished a front page de­pict­ing Simeone as Che Gue­vara, dub­bing him the leader of the war against tiki taka.

In a pe­riod where top-level foot­ball has been char­ac­terised by an ob­ses­sion with pos­ses­sion for most of this decade,‘El Cholo’ showed there was still an­other way to play and, per­haps most im­por­tantly, an­other way to win.

In the in­ter­ests of fair­ness, this will to win has some­times boiled over and led him to be­have in a quite un­seemly man­ner on oc­ca­sion.

The 47-year-old’s con­duct in the ex­tra-time de­feat to Real in the 2014 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal was es­pe­cially wince-in­duc­ing. But any­one hir­ing him knows that this is what you will get.

As in­cred­i­ble a job as Simeone has done with Atletico, it was up un­til re­cently start­ing to feel like the re­la­tion­ship was com­ing to the end of its road.

A fourth suc­ces­sive Cham­pi­ons League loss to Real Madrid must have been enor­mously dif­fi­cult to stom­ach and the de­jected look on the boss’ face after this year’s 4-2 ag­gre­gate de­feat to their bit­ter foes said it all.

Many pon­dered if he’d taken the club as far as he could, and there was some an­tic­i­pa­tion that the Atletico board would have to search for a new man­ager this sum­mer. How­ever, fol­low­ing the club’s emo­tional last match at their his­toric home, a 3-1 win over Ath­letic Bil­bao in May,‘El Cholo’ an­nounced that he would, in fact, be stay­ing put in Madrid.

The an­nounce­ment was re­ceived with re­lief from sup­port­ers, but it does still only seem like a mat­ter of time be­fore the boss de­parts for pas­tures new.

Where Simeone will end up next is the sub­ject of much de­bate.

David Beck­ham’s old pal would no doubt be a fan­tas­tic ad­di­tion to the Premier League, his or­gan­i­sa­tional skills much needed in a league that seems to be grad­u­ally for­get­ting what de­fend­ing ac­tu­ally means.

How­ever, it is hard to see any of the top six dis­pos­ing of their man­ager any time soon, with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of Chelsea and An­to­nio

Conte go­ing sep­a­rate ways.

Re­cent spec­u­la­tion has him linked with In­ter, and this is noth­ing new. Such ru­mours have cropped up ev­ery so of­ten over the course of the last few years, never seem­ing to fully sub­side.

To some this would ap­pear to be a step down, with the Ner­az­zurri hav­ing lan­guished nearer mid-ta­ble than the top of Serie A in years gone by.

What’s more, many re­cent in­cum­bents in the San Siro hot­seat have found the job very tricky in­deed, with board ex­pec­ta­tions seem­ingly far higher than the qual­ity of player that In­ter cur­rently pos­sess.

Just this year, Frank de Boer, who resur­faced at Crys­tal Palace, and Ste­fano Pi­oli have been axed.

How­ever, a man like Simeone would surely rel­ish the chal­lenge of rein­vig­o­rat­ing such a huge club, one that lifted the Cham­pi­ons League just seven years ago.

He did, of course, play for In­ter too, and per­haps the con­nec­tion he felt there has re­mained to this day, as it did with Atletico.

When he does fi­nally leave, be it in a year’s time or even fur­ther into the fu­ture, the for­tunes of his po­ten­tial suc­ces­sor will be fas­ci­nat­ing to fol­low.

Atletico fans no doubt har­bour se­ri­ous hopes of con­tin­u­ing to take the fight to Spain’s ‘big two’, their ex­pec­ta­tions raised by a string of suc­cess­ful cam­paigns.

With the play­ers they have at their dis­posal and the fresh dawn of a new sta­dium soon upon them, there is still space for the Ro­ji­blan­cos to grow fur­ther, but Simeone will no doubt leave big shoes to fill.

Once the main man de­parts, will his re­place­ment con­tinue to build on the foun­da­tions he has set?

Or will we only then start to truly ap­pre­ci­ate what won­ders he has worked?

Any­one seen Beck­ham? Simeone play­ing for Ar­gentina

Top of the pile: Atletico Madrid’s play­ers lift Simeone aloft Win­ner: Atletico Madrid man­ager Diego Simeone

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