Image: Wikimedia Commons / Антон Зайцев
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Антон Зайцев

After 500 games with Atletico Madrid, how good is Diego Simeone?

Diego Simeone reached 500 games managed for Atletico Madrid in their recent 1-0 victory over Getafe. There is no better time to look back over his achievements during his tenure and assess where he stands among the game’s best coaches.

Simeone took over in 2011, having managed Racing Club in Argentina before his return to Europe. When he arrived, he placed an emphasis on making sure his players knew about the history of Atletico and were committed to buying into the values of the club. As a player who won the league and cup double with Atletico Madrid, with a playing style remarked for its intelligence as much as its tenacity, he was earmarked as the man to take Atletico Madrid back to its previous glory.

In his first season, his team won the Europa League. In his second season, he won the Copa Del Rey. Both achievements are not mean feats by any stretch of the imagination, the Europa League has only grown in quality over the years and the Copa Del Rey means beating out other top Spanish clubs. He beat out Marcelo Bielsa’s Bilbao to win the Europa League and Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid to win the Copa Del Rey.

Simeone’s first (and currently only) La Liga title came in the 13-14 season. Where he had an exceptionally well-drilled defensive unit as well as clinical finishers, complimented by midfielders who looked like they’d rather die of exhaustion than give up. Thibaut Courtois, Diego Godin, Gabi and Diego Costa all stood out among an exceptional team that season, with Simeone’s classic 4-4-2 using its aggression in defence and pace on the counter-attack to outplay Barcelona and Real Madrid. Simeone also reached his first Champions League final, where he sadly lost out to Real Madrid.

Highlights of his Europa League campaign involve beating Arsenal in the semi-finals

Other great achievements in his tenure include a second Europa League title in 17-18 and defensive records set in the 15-16 season, where Atletico Madrid competed right until the last few matchdays of La Liga and conceded only 18 goals all season. Highlights of his Europa League campaign involve beating Arsenal in the semi-finals, despite falling behind in the first leg.

While his achievements certainly make him seem to be a good manager – what makes him one of the greats? First, he has greatly surpassed expectations. Before their 13-14 title, Atletico had only won the title when Simeone was playing still playing for them. Simeone has taken his side to the Champions League 16 times, a far cry from their record before the Argentine’s tenure began.

Simeone has also managed to take scalps against some of the very best. Mourinho, Guardiola, Klopp and Ancelotti are some of the most notable names to have been beaten by Simeone’s well-drilled outfit. Simeone has also developed incredible players, he helped Griezmann, Godin, Koke and Oblak (to name a few) achieve their world-class potential. Joao Felix is now looking to turn into the player that people were raving about during his breakthrough at Benfica and Marcus Llorente is currently growing into a strong player as well.

In the 14-15 and 19-20 seasons, Atletico went through overhauls in personnel. An underrated quality of a manager is to keep the ship steady during these periods and still achieve success relative to their conditions. He secured Champions League qualification and embarrassed Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. Liverpool were favourites not just for that game – but for the entire competition.

At the moment, Atletico Madrid come into the new year with a Champions League tie against Chelsea and two points ahead of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga with two games in hand – only losing once all season. Chelsea are having a rough time at the moment, with good results hard to come by. Real Madrid and Barcelona are also struggling to find form – with only Real Sociedad looking like another genuine title contender. As things stand, 2021 looks like it could be another year of success for Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone. 500 games are more than long enough for any manager to grow stale at a club – but Simeone looks like he will only continue going from strength to strength.

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