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When Diego Simeone walked through the doors of Atlético de Madrid for the third time in December 2011, his first as a coach, it was the union of two emphatically intertwined entities, but a couple with no reputation for longevity.
In the 15 years since the club’s last triumph in 1996, Atlético had hired 16 different coaches. Simeone, with less than six years of coaching career, was now at his seventh club. However, 500 games and the two are still together, and better than ever.
Throughout his nearly decade at the helm, ‘El Cholo’, once Atlético’s favorite son as a player, has sculpted a number of teams in his own image: committed, passionate, intense, but not always the most personable to the view.
However, as Simeone rightly pointed out after leading the club to its first title since his playing days in 2014: “There is more than one way to win.”
Safe at the top of the League half a century of games later, Simeone’s chapter in Atlético’s history is still being written.
The song of: “Ole, ole, ole, Cholo Simeone!” It may have been played at Vicente Calderón during the Argentine’s first game at the helm, but Atlético was still a work in progress.
Simeone inherited a team that floated above the relegation zone and took them to fifth place, culminating an impressive first campaign (half) with European trophies at the expense of his former national team coach Marcelo Bielsa.
After sounding the final whistle, Simeone could not accurately classify it among the achievements of the club, but even he admitted that “in many years he will be remembered”. Even with the club’s subsequent successes under his watch, El Cholo was right.
Atlético de Madrid finally put an end to the curse against their white-jersey city rivals on the grandest stage, beating Real Madrid for the first time since 1999 in the Copa del Rey final at the Santiago Bernabéu.
There is nothing better than that.
Simeone topped José Mourinho once more the following season, when he led Atlético to their first European Cup final in 40 years with victory at Stamford Bridge in the semi-finals.
Without a single new signing in the starting eleven, Atlético conceded only their sixth goal in 12 Champions League games to a player from the Rojiblancos The faithful would never envy a strike, Fernando Torres.
At the end of a tiring night, Simeone delivered a strong message in which he highlighted the strength of his squad: “I want to thank the mothers who gave birth to these players: they have huge balls.”
Before the start of the 2013/14 campaign, Atlético de Madrid had not spent a single day at the top of the league for the better part of two decades. In fact, they had been to the second level more recently. However, heading into the final weekend of the season, Atleti were at the top of the table and needed only one point to secure the club’s first league title since Simeone won the double as a player in 1996.
Having lost five points in their last two games, nerves must have been rattling even more when they were behind Barcelona at halftime. Regardless, Simeone insisted to his squad that ‘we had played well’ at halftime. Diego Godín rewarded his performance with a thunderous equalizing header four minutes after the restart.
The athletes resisted and received a well-deserved standing ovation at the Camp Nou stadium at the final whistle as Simeone became even more rooted in club history.
Atlético’s only victory in La Liga at home over their fierce rivals in the 21st century was at least emphatic: only once in the club’s history have they triumphed in the Madrid derby by a greater margin.
Saúl Niguez took a moment of inspiration for Atlético to score, but the clean sheet they kept against Pep Guardiola’s prolific Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals was almost standard practice for Simeone and company.
Atlético used their fourteenth shutout in 16 Champions League home games to advance to their second final in three years that season.
When the bitter Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp informed him of the spikes that fired at him, following Atlético’s progression to the Champions League quarterfinals at his expense, Simeone provided the definitive description of how his team plays: ” To win, with all our soul. “
Simeone could have tasted victory against Barcelona three times in all competitions, but the Atlético coach, in 17 previous attempts, had never beaten the Catalan giants.
That is until El Cholo modified his setup, deploying Yannick Carrasco as an action left-back, to outwit and overtake the Blaugrana in large swaths of their November meeting, cementing his charge for the title in what could be the best. Simeone’s season so far.