Diego Simeone’s biggest games at Atletico Madrid
When Diego Simeone walked through the doors of Atletico Madrid for the third time in December 2011, the first as a coach, it was the union of two closely related entities, but a pair without a reputation for longevity.
In the 15 years since the club’s last title triumph in 1996, Atletico had employed 16 different coaches. Simeone, less than six years after starting his managerial career, was now at his seventh club. Yet 500 games and the two are still together, and better than ever.
During his nearly decade at the helm, “El Cholo” – once Atletico’s favorite son as a player – has carved out a series of teams in his image: committed, passionate, intense, but not always the most easy to watch.
Still, as Simeone rightly pointed out after leading the club to their first title since his playing days in 2014: “There’s more than one way to win.”
Settled safely atop La Liga half a century of games later, Simeone’s chapter in Atletico history is still being written.
The song of: “Ole, ole, ole, Cholo Simeone!” may have sounded around the Vicente Calderon in the Argentine’s first game at the helm, but Atletico was still a work in progress.
Simeone inherited a team hovering above the relegation zone and hoisted them to fifth place, capping a stunning first (half) campaign with European silverware at the expense of his former national team manager Marcelo Bielsa.
After the final whistle, Simeone could not precisely rank him among the club’s achievements, but even he admitted that “in many years it will be remembered”. Even with the club’s subsequent successes under his leadership, El Cholo was right.
Atletico Madrid have finally ended the curse on their white-shirt rivals in the biggest of stages, beating Real Madrid for the first time since 1999 in the Copa del Rey final at the Santiago Bernabeu.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
Simeone got the better of Jose Mourinho once again the following season, leading Atletico to their first European Cup final in 40 years with a victory at Stamford Bridge in the semi-final.
Without a single new signing in the starting XI, Atletico have conceded only their sixth goal in 12 Champions League games to a player on the Rojiblancos the faithful would never balk at a strike, Fernando Torres.
At the end of an exhausting evening, Simeone delivered a revealing message that highlighted the strength of her team: “I want to say thank you to the mothers who gave birth to these players: they have huge balls.
Before the start of the 2013/14 campaign, Atletico Madrid had not spent a single day leading the league for the best part of two decades. In fact, they had been in the second level more recently. Still, heading into the final weekend of the season, Atleti was at the top of the table and needed just one point to clinch the club’s first league title since Simeone won the double as that player in 1996.
After dropping five points in their last two games, nerves must have been even more nervous as they followed Barcelona at half-time. Either way, Simeone insisted to his team that “we played well” at the break. Diego Godin rewarded their performance with a thunderous equalizer four minutes into the restart.
Atleti held their own and received a standing ovation deserved by the Camp Nou stadium at the final whistle as Simeone took even deeper roots in the club’s history.
Atletico’s only home win in La Liga over fierce 21st-century rivals was at least categorical – only once in club history have they triumphed in the Madrid derby by a greater margin.
It took a moment of inspiration for Saul Niguez for Atletico to score, but the clean sheet they kept against Pep Guardiola’s prolific Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals was everything. except standard practice for Simeone and his colleagues.
Atletico have relied on their 14th shutout in 16 Champions League home games to advance to their second final in three years this season.
When briefed on the beards thrown by bitter Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp after Atletico’s progress to the Champions League quarter-finals at his expense, Simeone delivered the ultimate description of how his team plays: “Win, with all our soul.”
Simeone may have won victory three times against Barcelona in all competitions, but the Atletico boss, in 17 previous attempts, had never beaten the Catalan giants.
That is until El Cholo polishes his setup – deploying Yannick Carrasco as an all-action left-back – to outsmart and outdo the Blaugrana for large parts of their November meeting, solidifying their title charge in what could turn out to be Simeone’s best season yet.