Diego Simeone is the king of LaLiga. By the time he arrived on the scene, the Spanish football federation had been running the country’s top flight since 1957, when the first league was established. During his six-year stint with Atletico Madrid, the Argentine did more than enough to establish himself as the country’s most successful manager, but the question of whether he has surpassed Johan Cruyff remains one of the great mysteries of the modern era.
It was a rocky start for Atletico Madrid’s famed manager but a ruthless streak and a squad that has defied conventional wisdom have earned him the title of the most revered coach in Spanish football.
As the reigning La Liga champion, Atletico Madrid will be aiming to retain their crown and become the first team to retain the title in the league’s modern era. While their run to the title was largely on the back of the attacking talent they’ve assembled for years, Atletico’s success in this season’s competition has been attributable to an organizational structure and management style that have made them the most successful team in the league.. Read more about atlético madrid players and let us know what you think.
There can only be one table in the room. There is just one, in the form of a square, and it must be large enough to hold all 24 players that have traveled. Please arrange six seats on each side so that everyone can see each other and no one is in a better position than the other. If you can’t build a large enough table or don’t have a banquet space large enough, we’ll have to choose another hotel.
The orders were clear, and they were handed down from Diego Pablo Simeone, the Atletico de Madrid manager, through Tomas Renones, the club legend in charge of all first-team matters, and finally to the culinary director at the Courtyard by Marriott in Wolfsburg, Germany. Atletico was playing VfL Wolfsburg in a preseason friendly, a meaningless match for which half of the first-team players had remained in Spain, but that didn’t matter.
Simeone, 51, has left nothing to chance since taking over Atletico Madrid a decade ago. He follows the same routine for every game, from friendly matches to the Champions League finals, which the team has reached twice during his tenure. On the team bus, he sits in the same seat on the left side of the first row, with no one beside him. He likes short trips, so he asks his travel department to locate him a hotel that isn’t the most luxurious in the region, like the Ritz-Carlton, where almost all of the elite teams who visit Wolfsburg stay, but one that is absolutely adequate and close to the stadium. He prefers to spend the hour before a game alone with his thoughts, so his staff arranges him a secluded area apart from the visiting locker room in advance.
“Nothing is a coincidence,” Simeone adds, referring to the Spanish term for chance. “It’s a case of causalidad.” Purposeful.
What about the table? When Simeone first came at Atletico, the players formed cliques. He saw that the task he was up against — competing in a league with Barcelona and Real Madrid — required complete togetherness. It was the only way Atletico, who had only won LaLiga once in almost 30 years, could make up for the inevitability of a skill disparity. The table compelled everyone to work together.
“If you don’t want to speak to me at the square table, I lift my head and I have to look at you,” Simeone adds. “They have a responsibility to look at each other. They are seated together. That they be reunited.”
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Simeone had built a tough squad that surrendered control for the bulk of each game but frequently found a way to win by 2013-14, his third full season as Atletico’s manager. It won the championship because to teamwork, passion, fitness, and the odd miracle goal. It was Atletico’s first win since 1996.
Atletico’s captain, Koke, says today, “We utilized the counterattack.” “We defended from different angles, sometimes high and sometimes low. Without the ball, we dominated.” Atletico’s — and Simeone’s — style became renowned, but Simeone maintains that what appears on the pitch is just the outward expression of a deeper knowledge.
“Our core is not the game’s aesthetic, but how we live the game,” he explains. “When a newcomer enters our locker room, he may find it difficult to adjust. He will only do so after he realizes that when you play here, you aren’t simply using your skill. It isn’t skill that makes the difference. It is our character, our sense of comfort, and our belief. This is our commitment.” Last season, an almost completely new Atletico squad came up and accomplished it again, this time in a different form and with a changed system, as if to prove his point. The only thing that remained constant was his unwavering dedication to the cause.
During his decade as Atletico Madrid’s manager, Diego Simeone has become the club’s face. Getty Images/Tim Clayton/Corbis
Luis Suarez told ESPN earlier this month, “The most essential thing at Atletico is that nobody here believes he’s greater than any other player.” He’d just arrived a week ahead of schedule at Atleti’s training facility. After being released by Barcelona before to last season, the Uruguayan striker played a key part, if not the most important, in Atletico’s successful quest of another championship. “Every single player here has faith in the other,” Suarez said. “And that’s Cholo,” he added, referring to Simeone’s nickname.
Atletico’s teams clearly have their stars. Simeone has depended on Diego Costa, Thibaut Courtois, and Antoine Griezmann, among others, throughout his tenure. Then he moved them on to the biggest teams in football to fund their successors. Suarez is part of the 2021-22 squad, which also features Jan Oblak, one of the best goalkeepers in the game, and Joao Felix, an exceptional talent.
Despite the fact that Barcelona’s face was Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s was Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the world’s most recognized individuals, Atletico’s face has been its manager. That, too, isn’t coincidental. Simeone’s strategy has proved to be more effective than any of the players involved in its implementation.
“Cholo is more than a manager,” argues Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, the mayor of Madrid, who has a soft spot for his city’s second club. “He has turned our club around from a shaky organization to one that can compete with the best in the world. That is why we hold him in such high regard.”
The job is just starting for Simeone. “To keep going like this for decades requires doing what we’re doing,” he adds. That means continuing to translate competitive success into economic development, since one without the other is unsustainable. “And that development isn’t just financial,” Simeone emphasizes. “It’s all about winning.”
Simeone met the players for a short meeting after the team lunch in Wolfsburg. They then proceeded to the team bus via the front entrance. A small crowd had formed, including fans, hotel workers, and passers-by. It was a neat and tidy sight. Some names were read aloud as the players passed, as if someone were narrating a movie. Oblak is there. Isn’t it the same Thomas Lemar who helped France win the World Cup? Saul Niguez, Saul Niguez, Saul Niguez, Saul Niguez, Saul Niguez He’s the one!
Simeone then rushed through the doors, intently strolling. “Cholo, Cholo, Cholo, Cholo, Cholo, Cho Cholo Simeone is here! “yelled a lady in Spanish. Another swooned in German, “There he is, Simeone!” Simeone autographed a piece of paper. He smiled brightly as he posed for someone’s selfie. (When he wants to be, he can be as charming as any football player.) His face jerked back into a line at the click of the phone. He got back on the bus and headed to work.
Atletico’s spectacular four-year-old stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano, seems to billow above the flatlands northeast of the city. The club created a museum inside it. It occurred last year when fans were banned from attending games because to COVID-19, and just a few people were able to visit it. They’ll discover multimedia displays like a theater that mimics a little boy’s bedroom when they arrive. An emotive film plays over a number of screens, chronicling the passing down of the history of support for this particular club from one generation to the next. It quickly becomes apparent that the young man is Atletico Madrid legend Fernando Torres, a former Liverpool and Chelsea striker.
Simeone’s managerial style is rigorous, and he doesn’t spend time with players who aren’t completely dedicated to the cause, even if they were costly to get to Madrid in the first place. Getty Images/Erwin Spek/Soccrates
What fans won’t see at the new museum, at least not from the contemporary period, are the trappings of many real achievements. The trophy case of a team with such a large and devoted fan base is conspicuously empty. Its heyday was the 1960s and 1970s, although even then, it only won four league championships and five Spanish Cups in two decades. Atletico has won LaLiga three times since then: in 1996, when Simeone was a key player in the midfield, and then in 2014 and last season, when he was the manager. The absence of gear is due, of course, to the existence of two teams that are, by most metrics, the most powerful in the world.
The owner, Miguel Angel Gil, adds, “It’s the main issue I have.” “We can spend less than half as much on our squad as Real Madrid and Barcelona do in theirs — and, by the way, less than half as much as eight other European clubs.”
Gil was speaking with full awareness of the current economic crisis that has struck both clubs, forcing Lionel Messi’s departure from Barcelona and leaving Real Madrid in debt to the tune of over a billion euros. It’s unclear how each of them will go forward from here, but their capacity to produce income — $832 million for Real Madrid in the pandemic-affected 2019-20 season, and more over $1 billion for Barcelona, according to published figures — offers them at least the potential to bounce back quickly.
Atletico Madrid earned $403 million in the same season, ranking 13th in Europe. Despite this, their UEFA coefficient, which had been as high as second under Simeone, is now sixth. And, until the final season, when COVID-19 required games without spectators, they had made a profit in each of the previous 20 seasons.
Atletico Madrid’s prospects of defending their La Liga championship in 2021-22 are discussed by Gemma Soler.
In 1987, Gil’s father, Jesus Gil y Gil, a larger-than-life industrialist, was chosen president of the club. Gil y Gil served as mayor of Marbella, a seaside tourist city on the Costa del Sol, before going to jail on charges of money laundering and embezzlement. He was eventually banned from holding public office, and his connection with Atletico was severed in 2003. By that time, the team had been relegated to Spain’s second level, a humiliation from which many of its fans have yet to recover.
With the assistance of investors, his son was able to gain control of the club. Miguel Angel’s first bold move was to disband the surprise 2010 Europa League-winning squad led by Quique Sanchez Flores. Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero were the two most important players on the squad. Both were at odds with Sanchez Flores as well as with one another. Instead of picking sides, Gil dismissed the manager and fired both players (Forlan went to Inter Milan, Aguero to Man City).
Atletico had always seen themselves as a people’s team, as opposed to Real, the purple-and-white stronghold of Spanish aristocracy that played upstairs, and Simeone epitomized that attitude. He was born and bred in Argentina, and his unwavering dedication to the cause helped him underpin the strong Atletico sides of 1994 to 1997. He returned to the United States in 2003 after two seasons in Italy. Simeone coached four Argentine teams after retiring from football, with varied success. He spent six months attempting to maintain Catania in Serie A, then returned to Argentina in June 2011 to take over as manager of Racing.
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Atletico Madrid took a risk by employing Simeone. If Gil didn’t realize it before, it became apparent when he began contacting his former jobs in the autumn. Simeone had led Argentina’s River Plate to a championship in 2007, but the team fell to last place the following season, resulting in the club’s nearly unimaginable relegation.
“The president of River had a lot of nasty things to say about him,” Gil adds. “They talked about him in the same manner in Italy. It was a complete catastrophe.” Gil had been advised to keep away by everyone. Gil couldn’t help but think of Simeone’s devotion as Atletico’s captain, and his adamant unwillingness to accept anything less from his players.
Renones explains, “He was already a manager at the time.” Renones, who was known as “Tomas” as a player, was 35 years old and in his last season with Atletico when Simeone led the club to the 1996 championship. “On the field, Cholo was a manager,” he adds. “He was in charge of the direction. He made a demand. He had the same need as he does today. You have the upper hand. You have the upper hand. Then you win once again. It’s great that you played well and won. You win while playing poorly? That’s also a positive thing.”
Simeone, like Gil, saw that the beautiful side of the beautiful game was a luxury that this team couldn’t afford. He was willing to have his teams play defensive football, which is practically a must when your opponents are always outmanned. He appeared to thrive on Atleti’s need for dedication not just from their players, but also from their supporters. “He is our greatest possible communicator in terms of marketing,” Gil adds.
Simeone admits that he lacked the expertise to manage a club of Atletico’s size and ambition, but claims that “Miguel Angel understood me better than the rest.” “And he saw something in me that no one else did.”
Simeone took over the team during the 2011 Christmas break, when Atletico was in 10th place in LaLiga and out of the Copa del Rey. He won 317 games, drew 121, and lost 89 in the 3,500 days that followed, a period during which Real Madrid changed managers eight times. The 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals were both lost to Real Madrid, and both were agonizing defeats.
It’s not without irony that two defeats boosted the reputation of a manager obsessed with winning more than anything else he’s done. Atletico’s reputation was boosted after reaching the final twice in three years. It also piqued the attention of gamers who might not have considered it before. Simeone adds, “Now the good ones want to come here.” “Those who may have just wanted to visit Real Madrid or Barcelona and not Atletico now want to visit Atletico.”
Who are the players? Simeone never mentioned Andrea Berta, the sporting director. All he asked for was a star or two who would commit to the same level of dedication as the rest of the cast. “Diego told me, ‘Andrea, if we can only obtain a bit more money, we can recruit even better players,’” Berta recalls. “He understands that winning is easier with superior players.”
“However,” Berta continues with a wave of her hand, “it is also more difficult.”
It’s 6:30 p.m. on a hot August night. The sun is still shining brightly in Madrid. Simeone’s players are doing exactly what Simeone’s players do on August afternoons, and will continue to do so throughout the season. Oscar Ortega, Atletico’s fitness coach, has set up a line of BOSU balls on the field, dubbed “Profe” for “Professor.” His charges approach one by one, then hop and leap on the half-globes to the finish, alternating between one foot and two.
Suarez, on the right, arrived from Barcelona last season and instantly recognized Simeone’s vision. ‘Atletico, the most essential thing is that no one believes he is better than any other player.’ AFP/Getty Images/LLUIS GENE
It’s a workout that requires body control and agility, as well as pure willpower after the fifth or sixth repeat. Angel Correa, Rodrigo de Paul, Luis Suarez, and Jose Gimenez, the outstanding defense, all arrive jumping, panting, and sometimes tripping. As they pass him, Profe replies calmly, “One, two.” “It’s one, two.” Profe is well aware that this is just the beginning. The players feel the same way. Berta sums it up nicely: “Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run “Because we’re not Barcelona,” says the narrator.
These exercises have become famous in the world of indoor football. They resemble the physical effort required for a style of play that requires even attackers to track back and defend. Simeone chooses who may take it after carefully watching and observing everything.
Josuha Guilavogui, a former Atletico midfielder, recalls, “It was extremely difficult for me.” “He just has one way to go, and you’re either in or out.” Guilavogui, the current captain of Wolfsburg, joined Atletico Madrid from St. Etienne in 2013. Simeone saw something he didn’t like early in the summer sessions. Guilavogui started one game and appeared in another for two minutes. Guilavogui adds, “And it wasn’t just me.” “There were guys on the squad at the time who were better than me and who were already enjoying successful careers.”
Jackson Martinez, a former FC Porto forward, was one of them. Another was Nicolas Gaitan, who had previously played for Benfica. The three men’s journeys all followed the same downhill path. Simeone observed them exercise and then dismissed them. Regardless of the fact that the club paid a lot of money to get them, including $38.5 million for Martinez and $33 million for Gaitan.
Berta believes, “Talent is essential.” “However, they won’t be able to thrive at Atletico unless they have the proper mindset to play for Diego.”
Other players are aware that Simeone can help them reach their full potential. Prior to Simeone, Filipe Luis joined Atletico in 2010. He joined Chelsea after winning the Premier League in 2014. It meant more money and a simpler life, he reasoned. Within a few weeks, he realized he missed Simeone’s strict discipline.
“I couldn’t be the greatest left-back in the world without him,” he adds. “I was in his hands. As a result, I had to return. Only he was capable of extracting all of the football from my body.” Filipe Luis pleaded with Chelsea to send him back to Atletico Madrid. Chelsea had done it. Until 2019, he remained and flourished.
While Atletico haven’t won as many trophies as their main rivals, Real and Barcelona, the Simeone impact has been obvious, with two LaLiga championships, two Champions League runners-up medals, two Europa League titles, and other cups in the decade since his arrival. Getty Images/Peter Salado
Simeone understands that most bodies aren’t designed to function at such a high degree of intensity all of the time. He informs Berta that in an ideal world, the roster would be updated every few years, similar to how armies cycle regiments into and out of battle. Some of the players that come as teens, such as Koke, Correa, and Gimenez, seem to be preternaturally suited to the program. It’s partly because they don’t know any other option. Every newcomer, on the other hand, has the potential to be a flop.
“We lose 100 percent of our money with certain players,” Gil adds. “Why? Because they are unable to adapt to the current system. Every player must sprint, sprint, sprint. They won’t play if they don’t. And when you have high-talent guys, it’s virtually impossible to run, run, run.”
As a result, when Atletico Madrid signed Felix for a club-record $140 million in 2019, eyebrows were raised. Martinez-Almeida, the mayor, adds, “He was extremely technical, but I didn’t believe he was up to the physical level.” This was the third-, fourth-, or fifth-most costly transfer in history at the time, according to different estimates. It broke Atletico’s club record, with $80 million spent on Lemar, all for an undoubtedly brilliant 19-year-old who couldn’t possible know what would be expected of him. Simeone, on the other hand, saw the young Griezmann in Felix.
Griezmann, too, had come underweight and immature, described by Simeone as “a frail kid.” He possessed the kind of charisma that entices people from the first minute they saw him, but he had no idea how to use his talents to a team effort. Griezmann, on the other hand, had learnt his lesson. Before being approached by Barcelona, he scored 133 goals for Atletico.
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Felix is going through the same thing. After a terrible first season, he was the best player in LaLiga last season until an ankle injury halted his development. “I discovered the link between pain and team achievement,” Felix explains. “You learn to triumph together when you suffer together. Our training takes a toll on us. We all suffer because we have to protect ourselves. It teaches us how to be victorious.”
He now claims that if Simeone asks him to drop back to midfield to mark a guy, he will do so. He’ll remain upfront and push the ball if Simeone wants him to. He says, “I do everything he asks.” “I’m aware of the philosophy.”
Atletico Madrid signed Suarez, who will be 35 in January, last summer, much to the astonishment of many. (It also helped that he came on a free transfer, with Barcelona covering a large part of his salary.) Simeone believes that a forward’s primary duty is to serve as his first line of defense, which does not sound like Uruguay’s all-time top scorer. Suarez’s competitiveness, on the other hand, can’t be questioned; after all, he’s been caught biting opponents three times.
Suarez says of Simeone, “He understood I had motivation after Barcelona.” “He was well aware that I wanted to impress LaLiga with my abilities. He told me precisely what I needed to accomplish and instilled in me the belief that I could perform at my best here.”
However, motivation was just one aspect of the problem. The issue was whether Suarez could work as hard on defense as he needed to while still having the stamina to score goals. Simeone extended Suarez’s vacation to accommodate him. He changed the team’s tactics to suit his fearsome abilities, switching from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 shape. Suarez, he made it plain, was not expected to run as much as younger players like Marcos Llorente. Suarez, on the other hand, had to run smartly.
Atletico Madrid jumped out to an early lead in the standings, led by Felix. They hadn’t lost a game in ten matches, and they hadn’t even trailed. Their advantage was 10 points at the halfway point of the season. Felix then injured his ankle and became infected with COVID-19. For gambling-related offenses, Kieran Trippier was banned for ten games. Suarez’s frantic speed slowed. With eight games remaining, the lead over Real Madrid had shrunk to a single point, while the lead over Barcelona had shrunk to two points.
All of my sweating and panting paid off in the past month. With the championship up for grabs, Atletico Madrid went to Real Valladolid on the last day of the season. They quickly fell behind. After Correa had equalized in the 67th minute, Suarez made a darting move with the ball and scored the game-winner. He collapsed on the ground and sobbed when the game was over. At Barcelona, he had won cups and league championships, but this was different. Simeone gave a nod of approval.
“I always say that when you win at Atletico, you enjoy it twice as much,” he now adds.
Why? Because no one thinks Atletico will win. The giants are the driving force. Simeone’s team has no choice but to wait for an opportunity. Overcoming Real Madrid and Barcelona demonstrated that Atletico’s counterattacking approach, which they use for 90 minutes every week, works in the long run. An opportunity may arise when the fortunes of clubs rise and decline. All of Simeone’s preparation is for his players to be ready to grab the opportunity.
“The two of them are waiting wherever you turn, in LaLiga, the Copa del Rey, even the Champions League,” he adds of Real Madrid and Barcelona. “However, after nine years of hard effort, they are certain that they will not make a mistake. We are here because they do.”
Simeone’s position seems perfect as he approaches a decade as Atletico’s manager. It’s not only his $30 million (plus bonuses) yearly pay, which is the most of any manager in the world and the highest of any current LaLiga player. No manager is more powerful than him because of his tenure and Gil’s backing. “Other teams lose five or six games before changing managers,” Filipe Luis explains. “No worries, the players are safe. The manager at Atletico is well-protected. The players either adjust or depart.”
Of course, his accomplishments have been noted. Simeone was linked with both Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea last season. He had an interview with Manchester United in 2014, but they turned him down. He has said that he would want to manage both Internazionale and the Argentina national team at different occasions. Despite the fact that Simeone is a perfect match at Atletico, it’s uncertain how he would perform elsewhere. The most probable destination is England, particularly now that Real Madrid and Barcelona have ruled themselves out due to emotional factors.
Diego Simeone has a reputation for getting the most out of his players, such as Joao Felix (right). Getty Images/David S. Bustamante/Soccrates
“But it wouldn’t work if he were to manage in the Premier League,” Gil adds. “It’s not simply a matter of language; it’s about his management style. It’s the way he goes about things emotionally. He puts a lot of pressure on the players. You wouldn’t be able to do it there.”
Simeone got a contract deal earlier this year that would keep him in place until 2024, so the grind may become a little easier. Unlike the last time Atletico won, the majority of this squad should remain intact for some time. The 2014 championship was seen as a one-time event, and it was utilized as a springboard for players looking to break into the top tier of teams. Atletico is now a member of that tier, as shown by its participation (although at the last minute) in the ill-fated European Super League. “Everyone wanted to go in 2014,” Simeone adds. “No one does now. Why? Because it’s functioning well. We’re in a good place. The club is formidable. And we have a chance to win.”
This season may offer another one of those opportunities, with Barcelona in turmoil and desperately attempting to lose players and money, and Real Madrid integrating yet another new manager and an unclear lineup. With it comes the opportunity for Atletico to win the title for the first time in 70 years and establish themselves as not only one of the greatest teams in the world, but the best in Spain, at least for the time being.
Simeone seems energised by the prospect. He’s still as enthusiastic as ever, windmilling his arms on the touchline and shouting orders well beyond the technical area. Rodrigo Riquelme, a teenage winger, saw a teammate bursting into the clear during a game against Wolfsburg. Riquelme, on the other hand, took his time throwing the ball, and the opportunity passed. Simeone’s face flushed. His face twisted into a scowl as he threw his palms aloft. His face was a mask of frustration as he turned away from the field, disgusted.
The game had only been going for 40 seconds.
Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone has been the subject of much attention in the media in the last few weeks, as the club prepares for its most important game of the season to date. Having recently won the Europa League, the Champions League-winning boss has been rewarded with a €300 million transfer budget to spend in the summer, and his wealth of managerial experience has played a huge role in the success of one of the most important sides in Europe. Simeone’s managerial career has been a roller coaster ride, however, and after a glorious period when he was regarded as one of the world’s best, he has been labelled a crasher of dreams after a series of mediocre seasons.. Read more about barcelona and let us know what you think.
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