Saturday 7th February – Real Madrid were left humiliated, thumped and utterly dominated as Atlético Madrid romped to a 4-0 victory. The day when Los Colchoneros stamped its authority as the best team in the city of Madrid. But it hasn’t always been like this for Los Galacticos, as for a long time it has been a city controlled by Real Madrid, and with the Bernabeu as the city’s Mecca, Atlético Madrid were made to settle for second best in all areas. When both sides locked horns, from the whistle which marked the games kick-off, everybody expected Real to be victorious. And whenever they met it hardly seemed to be a rivalry and one could say Real had a psychological advantage over Atléti and were unbeaten for total of twenty five matches over fourteen years.
But how did it all change? Enter Diego Simeone…
Diego Simeone took over from Gregorio Manzano in December 2011 and in his first season, he worked wonders leading Atlético Madrid to the club’s second Europa League win in three years. In the UEFA Super Cup, they met Chelsea, the then winners of the UEFA Champions League and somewhat surprisingly to many it was Simeone’s Spanish soldiers who won the battle, pummeling The Blues 4-1.
Further success looked to be on the horizon as Atlético on 16th May 2013 faced Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey final. Previously it such a derby day fixture would have been a breeze for Real Madrid, but now with Simeone stood with an air of renewed superiority on the touchline, waving his arms around as if he was leading a choir, his team reacted wonderfully, winning 2-1, bucking the trend and dismissing the idea of a losing streak against their cross-city rivals. Atlético had come of age and matured under Simeone and with his guidance they would transform into something special – soldiers, with ‘Cholo’ as the team’s lieutenant general.
But how has one man made such a difference?
Like all the great managers: Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Arsene Wenger, Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly, Sir Matt Busby, they become the identity of their team. Diego Simeone is not too dissimilar to the above greats in my opinion, although some would argue that Diego Simeone hasn’t yet earnt the right to be mentioned in the same sentence as these managerial giants, but I would argue otherwise.
Simeone in a unique and quite mesmerising manner, uplifts his team to perform at the highest level against the best opposition. The 4-0 result against Real Madrid was no accident, it really was a long time coming. Atlético performed exceptionally and its credit to their exceptional performance that Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos proved practically to be non-existent. I mean, you honestly have to recognise how good a team is when they are able to limit the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and co to only two shots, both off target, throughout an entire game.
The way Atlético pass the ball shares similarities with Guardiola’s magical touch at FC Barcelona and the style of play he brought to La Liga during his time at the Catalan club. The way they hunt the ball down in packs when they don’t have possession of it and the way in which they squeeze opponents for example, really is beautiful to watch. They might be regarded sometimes as a ‘dirty’ team, diving and prone to play-acting which admittedly have occurred at times at Atlético, but this is a feature in modern football which happens to everybody.
The revival of the red half of Madrid has only just started and inevitably they’ll grow as a team as Diego Simeone will no doubt receive funding to bolster his already strong squad. It could be that some of his star performers move on with several reports repeatedly rumouring the likes of Diego Godin and Joao Miranda to moves away from the club, but I’m sure as we’ve learnt during his tenure that if there is anybody that can manage to galvanise a team and work under his limited resources to maintain a title challenge, it would have to be Diego Simeone.
From the passion he expressed on the pitch as a player, to the passion he expresses from the touchline, his genuine emotion as manager is not too dissimilar from a lucky fan who has won a competition to be the manager of the team he loves. He won’t leave until he’s told to and I honestly do think he wouldn’t even consider managing another team any time soon. It seems like Atlético Madrid is everything Diego Simeone could want as a manager, why would he want to leave?
All in all, Atlético Madrid are a fabulous team with an equally as incredible fan-base;. Make no mistake about it, if Vicente del Bosque wants to renew the success of the Spanish national team, the Spanish Football Federation should look no further than Atlético’s style of football under Diego Simeone’s management. Although inconsistency in phases has lessened the chances of Simeone’s warriors retaining the league title this season, the general belief amongst football fans from outside of Spain is that Real Madrid and Barcelona are old news. Atlético are in and look like they’re here to stay.
Article written by: @muddassirjourno