Saluting Simeone

It is always sad when there is a parting of ways especially when a manager and club love each other.  It is even sadder when the manager announces this two years before the end of his contract.  Diego Simeone is such a manager.  In September this year, El Cholo announced that he would see out his current deal until 2018, with the one positive at least being that he could see Atletico Madrid into their new stadium, La Peineta.

One could argue that being four years at the club, and upsetting the established order in La Liga could justify his decision, especially after the success he has enjoyed at the Vicente Calderon.  2012 was the beginning of all of this, and his Europa League success that year began what would be a great revolution for Los Rojiblancos.  2013 followed with Copa Del Rey success (they had finally defeated city rivals Real Madrid after 14 years) and then came the euphoria of 2014, winning their first Spanish Championship since 1996, sealing Simeone’s legacy as a man to win it both as a player and coach, even if this euphoria was extinguished a week later when they lost in the Champions League final to Real in Lisbon.

For the last two seasons, Atleti’s trophy cabinet has been dry but there is much more to the current Atletico poject than just trophies.  Players leaving the Calderon have been a constant trend.  Radamel Falcao in 2013, and Diego Costa a year later had tested Simeone’s resolve during transfer windows, and El Cholo has done a fantastic job signing players below the blockbuster prices rivals Barcelona and Real would pay.  What Simeone has done is keep his core at the back, something which the world would be accustomed to in the philosophy of the Argentine.

Diego Godin at the heart of this defence is testament to that, and with the assistance of Felipe Luis, Stevan Savic and Juanfran, so far this season in all competitions, they have only conceded nine goals in all competitions this season.  For the last four campaigns, crazy stats like that can only summarise one aspect of Atletico so far under Simeone – they are that brilliant at defending.  Simeone himself has performed a masterstroke in managing club captain Gabi and academy player Koke in the team, and shifting the latter into the middle of the park instead of out wide has allowed Atletico to play a more attacking brand, proving that defence is not the only strength of this team.

Simeone’s development of players is something to marvel at.  Case in point is that of Antoinne Griezmann.  The Frenchman arrived from Real Sociedad two year ago, with nothing but raw talent.  He needed the right guidance and man management, and he received it from both ends with Didier Deschamps at his national team France but most importantly on a daily basis, with Los Rojiblancos.  It is fair to say that Griezmann’s development has seen him become one of the best players in the world, and a Ballon D’or is likely sometime in the future.

Yannick Carrasco is another, and his part in the project of Simeone is that key and the same could be said about the Belgian national team.  What Simeone has done this season is something out of the norm at the Calderon …. spending money in the transfer window.  80 million euros have been spent this season, with the two major names being Kevin Gameiro and Nicloas Gaitan.  Gameiro’s presence has already been felt, and his five goals in La Liga so far may not be a huge number, but he will help in taking the responsibility of scoring goals from Griezmann and Fernando Torres.

Not forgetting goalkeeper Jan Oblak, justifies why Atletico have one of the strongest defences in the world, making the departure of Thibaut Courtois easier to handle.  So with two years left on his current deal, where to now for Simeone?  The Argentine has already established himself as one of the greatest coaches in the history of Rojiblancos, since Radomir Antic two decades ago.  His style of play may not be loved by all, but it has been effective in winning five trophies since 2012.  

Atletico president Enrique Cerezo has stated that this is the best Atletico squad in years, and the depth in the squad bears testament to that.  Los Rojiblancos lie six points behind leaders Real, and are still in both the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League.  Simeone started something special, and after two trophyless seasons, fans may have the right to demand silverware in the next two years.  Leading them into the new stadium with trophies would be something special.  Simeone will always have options open, and a return to the San Siro with Inter Milan is the highest of all possibilities especially with the managerial merry go around in Italy.

Simeone’s legacy will always be hard to follow when he does leave.  One more legacy he has created is never losing a Madrid derby match since April 2013.  He has a chance to maintain that come this weekend in the first El Derbi Madrileno this season.