It was around April 2014 that Diego Simeone was closest to moving to England.
Manchester United was on the verge of sacking David Moyes and the Argentine coach was top of their list He knew it too.
He had Atletico Madrid flying high top of La Liga and when his Atletico team knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League to reach the final against Real Madrid it seemed he passed his final audition He had hired a teacher for private English lessons although progress, without the full immersion and the necessity to speak the language, was painfully slow Atletico won the league that season and a heartbreaking defeat by Real Madrid in the final only increased his desire to stay at the club and win that elusive first European Cup The language wouldn’t be a problem staying put either.
The English classes were binned and so was the Old Trafford dream as United hired Louis van Gaal Still when top English clubs need a coach Simeone’s name is mentioned.
But it tends to be supporters talking about how much they would love to have him as opposed to club directors His reputation now is of a man who, because of those linguistic differences, probably will never coach in England as much as nights like Wednesday night at the Metropolitano make him seem like a perfect fit for the league that offers probably the greatest concentration of top coaches anywhere in the world Share this article Share On Wednesday night he proved two balls sometimes beats five Champions League Cristiano Ronaldo had reminded the Atletico Madrid supporters how many European Cups he’d won but the gesture that will really be remembered will be Simeone’s ‘Dos Cojones’ celebration after his team took the lead Five years on from his flirtation with Manchester United,
Atletico are now paying him more than any other manager in the world and as much as any player at the club – and that includes Antoine Griezmann who earns £20million net a season The contract signed last week keeping him in Madrid until 2022 seems to set back any move to England still further ‘Putting Diego Costa and Koke on from the start, when they had been out for so, long took balls,’ Simeone said after the win over Juventus ‘We have a lot of balls.
‘On the night it hadn’t all been about balls.
But then that is part of the trick Simeone plays on opposition coaches, part of the reason why even with the language barrier who could succeed in England He revels in the image of chest thumping, crowd-orchestrating, Braveheart but he can be canny too Thomas Party had been deployed to suffocate Miralem Pjanic and so stop the supply to Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala And the second half changes with three attacking players entering the fray – Thomas Lemar, Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata – had kept Juventus pinned back inside their own area where they conceded two scrappy goals from set-pieces And of course as well as the tactical nous the Man in Black’s ability to create a cauldron of 68,000 believers was crucial When plans were being drawn up for the final design of the Metropolitano Stadium, Simeone – delighted by the scale of the huge technical areas – made sure his one was closest to the end of the ground where he new the noisiest Atletico supporters would be congregated On Wednesday night he turned to them to lift his team and they responded.
His philosophy is that everyone inside the stadium must do their part to help the team win He’s been in trouble before in Spain for instructing a ball-boy to a throw a ball on the pitch to slow an opponent’s counter-attack ‘I don’t believe in justice in football,’ he said in his post-match press conference ‘It’s strength that makes you win football matches.
‘ He’s been turned over by Champions League fate too many times to believe his team is already through The scars of two Champions League final defeats by Real Madrid have not healed.
He was on the pitch during the game in 2014 to confront Raphael Varane in that final that came just as he was an option for Manchester United That cost him a lengthy ban.
When Atletico lost the final again two years later he was close to quitting – again it could have been to England But as he said recently when he admitted he was close to signing a new contract: ‘There are still things to achieve here ‘ He signed that deal last week, assuring supporters his intensity and desire have no subsided, and he proved it on Wednesday night Asked about the goal that Alvaro Morata had ruled out he said to the reporter asking the question: ‘If you think that a player of Chiellini’s size could fall over like that they believe it ‘VAR showed there had been a push from Morata into the chest of Chiellini, one he would have got away with without the closed-circuit TV Simeone will have been pleased by the aggression shown from his Chelsea loanee.
If he can transform the talented but too nice Spain forward then it will be one of his greatest achievements One day he will leave Atletico – the supporters will probably all wear black half in mourning and a half in tribute Where will he go then if not the Premier League? A return to Italy looks most likely His sister and representative Natalia Simeone has spoken about the inevitability of him coaching Inter one day and he also wants to manage the national team he played for 106 times Those aborted attempt to learn English in 2014 also came at a time when Manchester clubs and Chelsea were options for him For a coach who uses communication so extensively it is still considered too big a problem making him less of an option for Premier League teams But as he showed in the technical area on Wednesday night when his team scored – not all communication is verbal Sometimes a celebratory gesture speaks more than a thousand words.
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