Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, and Carlo Ancelotti are considered to be some of the best managers in the world. At the Ballon D’or this year, Joachim Loew won the Coach of the Year Award after leading Germany to the World Cup title. Yet, despite this, it must be remembered that these managers are in control of some of Europe’s top clubs with resources available to compete at the very top. While Chelsea have restricted their spending to comply with Financial Fair Play, they can comfortably compete at the top of the Premier League. Bayern Munich are by far the best team in Germany, while Real Madrid have made some of the biggest purchases across the past decade. These include Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and Gareth Bale. Loew managed one of the pre-tournament favorites, as Germany lied just behind Brazil and Spain as favorites for the World Cup. One manager has achieved success in the past three seasons without a multitude of resources, breaking the Spanish duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Step forward, Diego Simeone.
In terms of the TV deals in Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona receive about 70% of the total money distributed. Atletico Madrid are fourth, behind Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. While Barcelona and Real Madrid receive 140 million euros each year, Atletico receive just 42 million euros. With the amount of debt the club hold, they cannot spend beyond their means. Also, they were unable to keep hold of two stars in Diego Costa and Filipe Luis when offers came from abroad. Just two seasons ago it was unfathomable for a team like Atletico to win La Liga, but it became a reality last season.
When Simeone took over at Atletico in December of 2011, the side were truly struggling. By the end of the season, Simeone had won the Europa League and also helped the team to a fifth placed finish in La Liga. The side contained players who would become a vital part of the team for the next few seasons. Diego Godin, Miranda, Tiago, Arda Turan, Gabi, Koke and Juanfran were all part of this team. Simeone brought the best out of these players. Before their time at Atletico, few saw the best of Miranda, Gabi, and Juanfran. Even now, Filipe Luis has had to settle for second choice at left-back for Chelsea. While he is still a great player, his defensive performances have not been as good as Cesar Azpilicueta for Chelsea in the chances he has been given. In the 2014 Champions League final, Atletico collapsed when Luis got injured. He was the best left-back in Europe during the 13-14 season, combining superb defending with a great ability to get forward and cross the ball.
In the 2012-2013 season, Atletico qualified for the Champions League with a third placed finish in La Liga. They defeated Chelsea 4-1 in the UEFA Super Cup and showed glimpses their great promise by defeating Real Madrid 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final (even if they had some luck).
And that brings us to Atletico’s greatest accomplishment under Simeone. Radamel Falcao left for Monaco in the summer of 2013 and many questioned who would step up as Atletico’s next great striker. A player who had performed well as a second striker behind Falcao stepped up to carry Atletico – Diego Costa. If anything, Costa did better than Falcao did for Atletico, harassing defenders and contributing more to the team as a whole. Simeone led his side to the Champions League final and won La Liga for his side. Jurgen Klopp is a manager often compared to Simeone, yet Klopp has struggled this season after the departure of Robert Lewandowski. On the other hand, Simeone lost three vital cogs of his team in Thibaut Courtois, Luis, and Costa in one transfer window. Despite this setback, Atletico are still competing.
Teams such as Liverpool and Tottenham have struggled to “replace” the likes of Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale respectively, but Atletico’s transition has almost been seamless. Even though Atletico may not win La Liga this season, their ability to compete at the very top, shown by their four victories over Real Madrid this season exemplify this. Simeone’s side have shown passion and resilience which few other teams have. In the past, it was thought that a team like this could not compete at the very top, but under Simeone’s guidance Atletico have become a quality European outfit.
Fans of the game may respect Simeone, but some complain about the style of soccer his team plays. Nevertheless, a manager has to make the best of his resources and Simeone has done just that. While it is indefensible for a manager to spend hundreds of millions of pounds and to not play attractive football, Simeone’s side are certainly an underdog and do what it takes to win. At the end of the day, the most important thing in soccer is to win. Yes, that may sound simple, but managers such as Arsene Wenger at Arsenal have often shown style over substance does not always translate to trophies. While their rough brutal, soccer against Barcelona a month ago showed a bit of an ugly side to their game, every team has flaws. This Atletico side are able to adapt themselves to each game, as shown by their superb display in their 4-0 victory over Real Madrid.
Simeone has accomplished a feat which few would have imagined just two seasons ago – breaking the Real Madrid and Barcelona duopoly in Spain. Nowadays, Spain have three top teams competing for La Liga and the Champions League. This Atletico side’s accomplishments have been superb, considering the financial gap between themselves and Real Madrid and Barcelona. This could not have been possible without the passionate man on the touchline, Diego “El Cholo” Simeone.
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