The Cinderella Story
The away fans at the famous Stamford Bridge were electric, for their Fairy God Mother had just given them the chance to dare to dream, the Fairy God Mother being the former Argentina international and Atletico Madrid player, none other than their current manager, Diego Simeone.
The battle that Atletico Madrid and Chelsea had at the Vicente Calderón left fans neutral and of both teams alike with a feeling that Atletico had missed a chance to stab a wound into the heart of the European giant Chelsea. This was the thought conceived, but when Atletico Madrid’s players and staff jumped off the plane in London, they arrived carrying a sword to cut off the head of their blue enemy, arrived thinking only one team was going to play, and that team was the red and white half of Madrid.
The tactical genius of Diego Simeone has truly only had a spotlight shone upon it, displaying it for the world to see since their famous Copa Del Rey Final win over their Galactico rivals last May. The team then, spear headed by the prolific Colombian Radamel Falcao, beat their city rivals 1-2, at the Santiago Bernabéu, the world class striker had not even put his name on the score sheet, and thus proved just how far this team had come under Simeone.
When the Argentine became the successor of Gregorio Manzano, they were 10th in the domestic league, but finished the season 5th and with a Uefa Europa League Trophy, followed by the Uefa Supercup, won with a 4-1 win over the London based team they just beat 1-3.
At the moment, Atletico sit atop La Liga, acting as the King of the Mountain, looking down at the rest of the teams like Zeus atop Mount Olympus holding his lightning bolts. They have reached the top through a physical style reminiscent of the way Simeone played during his career, rough on the outside but pretty on the inside with the results they earn. Teams know when they walk on the pitch that Atletico treat it more like a boxing fight, never giving up, fighting to the last breath. This is why teams like Barcelona have struggled against Atletico Madrid, with key players such as Lionel Messi unable to find their stride as multiple players swarm to pressure and challenge him. Formations deployed by the Argentine are usually in the form of 4-2-2-2 and 4-4-2 where players have excelled. The fullbacks are always up the field, and when not making lightning runs in behind the opposition defence, are always pressing the other teams fullbacks into losing possession and forcing errors. The center back pairing of Godin and Miranda rarely put a foot wrong, acting as the foundation to the structure. The midfielders play with a fierce ferocity that few can match, one that intimidates the oppositions players, with players like Gabi and Raul Garcia putting their all into every challenge. Play-makers such as Koke and Turan are always able to find space and deliver a killer pass, all for the prolific forwards in the shape of clinical Diego Costa and experienced David Villa to dispatch. On the bench players like Adrian, Rodriguez and Tiago lie in wait, and when sent on by Simeone, fit the style and tactics delivered to them by their leader, with all players believing his philosophy.
Nobody would ever have predicted this at the start of the season, as the two biggest clubs on the planet, Real Madrid and Barcelona, both spent over 150 million euros on marquee signings such as Gareth Bale and Neymar Jr., meanwhile Atletico let go of their marquee player, the aforementioned Radamel Falcao. When the man that was the striker in the 2012 Fifa Team of the Year, Simeone was left with a major question mark in his attack. Who was he going to sign? At that time, Barcelona’s Spanish forward David Villa had talked up a move to another club, most media outlets reporting that English giants Arsenal and their North London neighbors Tottenham wanted to acquire the signature of the prolific forward. This was when the cunning mind of Simeone struck, as he pick-pocketed the striker right beneath the English clubs noses, convincing the striker that Atletico Madrid was his best destination. This deal has turned to be a steal, having spent only 4.4 million pounds.
Now with the La Liga title only needing 2 wins out of the remaining 3 games, and one win away from the Uefa Champions League trophy, the love story of Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid is likely to continue, with the ball set to happen in Lisbon on the 24th of May.