In nine seasons with Atletico Madrid, Diego Simeone has cemented his status as one of the top managers in Europe. His touchline prowess is illustrated by these five memorable games.
The 2000s were a decade marred by disarray and disappointments for Atletico Madrid fans. The first two seasons of the decade were spent in Spain’s second division, which felt like hitting rock bottom for the Atletico faithful. Even after winning promotion, the club struggled to re-establish their status as a top force in Spanish soccer as they failed to secure a top three La Liga finish and didn’t get their hands on any trophies.
In the midst of a 2011-2012 season where the club were dangling around the relegation zone, it was clear Atletico needed someone to come in and revitalize the team. They desired a manager who would uplift a fanbase that had remained loyal through the thick and thin.
And they found that man in Diego Simeone.
A club fan favorite from the 1990s, “El Cholo” Simeone instilled the hope that the club and fans had longed for, along with a style that became known as “Cholismo.” He has done the near impossible by turning a team known for being the lovable losers into a side that is revered by the European giants of football. Since being named the manager in December of 2011, Simeone has won seven trophies to go along with seven consecutive top-three league finishes.
Simeone has given Atletico fans memorable games and moments over his current tenure, including with these five fixtures.
5. Atletico Madrid 3-2 Liverpool – 2019-20 Champions League Round of 16, second leg
After Simeone orchestrated a masterclass 1-0 win at home in the first leg over Liverpool, the defending European champions still seemed cool, calm and collected. The tie was far from over because Atletico had the biggest test of their season waiting for them: Anfield.
“Atletico fans who can a get ticket… ‘welcome to Anfield’,” Klopp said following the 1-0 away defeat to Atletico.
But Klopp and his side seemed to underestimate Atletico because if there is one team that fears nothing, it is a side managed by Simeone. No stadium atmosphere or crowd noise would faze Los Rojiblancos thanks to the fighting mentality that the Argentine manager has embedded within his unit.
As the second leg got underway, it was clear Atletico were poised to remain as relaxed throughout the game. They aimed to play with high intensity — which is expected out of Atletico — coupled with a relaxed demeanor as if they were playing a preseason home game.
So, over the course of the game, Atletico operated in their conventional 4-4-2 formation — Joao Felix and Diego Costa played upfront — that often reverted over to a 4-5-1 deep low block. Simeone was content with inviting pressure as long as they were going to create a couple of goal-scoring chances. As risky as the plan was deemed considering they were going up against the best attacking unit in Europe, it all somehow paid off in the end.
The opening 90 minutes of the contest were dominated by Liverpool as they recorded 26 shots and managed over 70 percent of possession. However, they came away with a mere one goal from a Georginio Wijnaldum header. The game then went into extra time after an intense 90 minutes. A Roberto Firmino goal put Liverpool up 2-1 in the tie, but it was all for nothing as back-to-back stunning goals from Marcos Llorente left Anfield in complete shock. Alvaro Morata topped it all off with a counter-attack goal to send Atletico through to the quarterfinal on a 4-2 aggregate win.
To call this a tactical masterclass is a stretch due to the multiple high percentage goal-scoring chances that Liverpool created, including from Andrew Robertson’s open-goal opportunity. But this performance deserves praise because of their response in extra time coupled with the stout performances from Felipe and Stefan Savic; they combined for 32 clearances and seven tackles.
Some may call the result lucky while others frame it as just another vintage Simeone-led performance.