Last year, cynics kept waiting for the Primera Division to turn back into a ‘two horse race’ between Barcelona and Real Madrid. But match after match, Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid continued to impose their collective will on La Liga opponents until they were eventually crowned champions on the last day of the season after drawing with Barcelona in the Camp Nou.
Atletico lost players again this summer and have had to reload their squad with a limited budget.
This week, Diego Simeone’s squad stared down the task of beating Real Madrid over two legs of the Spanish Super Cup.
Los Blancos were coming off a season which saw them win a Copa del Rey and the club’s tenth Champions League title. Their president, Florentino Perez, revamped the squad with the summer signings of Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez and goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The majority of football experts have picked Real Madrid to win La Liga this season.
But Atletico Madrid’s version of “total football” won out over two legs of the Spanish Super Cup.
Simeone’s men grinded and fought for 180+ minutes and beat a star-studded Real Madrid lineup, 2-1 on aggregate.
During the first leg, James Rodriguez 81st minute goal was cancelled out by Raul Garcia’s effort in the 88th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu; a match that saw Real Madrid win 70% of the possession.
And this evening, newly-signed striker Mario Mandzukic’s second minute goal was enough to see Atletico win the Spanish Super Cup for the first time since 1985.
The match saw numerous yellow cards handed out to both sides and Diego Simeone was sent to the stands for arguing with the officials (at one point, he patted the fourth official on the head).
The passion on the field was mirrored in the stands for 94 excruciating minutes.
Atletico once again gave their opponent a huge possession advantage (61% for the match).
But the total effort, total commitment and total sacrifice from Simeone’s men won out in the end.
Atletico Madrid’s version of “total football” may not be appealing to most of the sport’s purists…but it is winning more fans game after game.