He slaps sideline officials, throws balls on the field to disrupt play and has timeless ‘bad boy’ looks. Diego Simeone is well on his way to becoming football’s favourite villain.
He cemented himself in football folklore (or infamy) during the 1998 World Cup with his bone-crunching tackle on David Beckham. ‘Golden Balls’ famously reacted by kicking Simeone, an outburst that resulted in Beckham’s sending off and England losing 4-3 on penalties.
After finishing his playing career, Simeone had brief stints as a manager at Catania in the Sierra A then Racing Club in Argentina, but he has shown his managerial class with Atletico Madrid
El Cholo became manager of Atletico Madrid in 2011 and his merciless mindset started from day one. He told AtleticoMadrid.com he is happy for his team to go through some tough times, as “it is good to know how to suffer”.
His grinding style has lead to an extremely successful 2015/16 campaign. After 36 La Liga rounds, Barcelona and Atletico are joint top of the table.
Atletico have shocked their Champions League rivals with big wins over traditional European powerhouses.
Their quarterfinal clash against Barcelona saw Atletico only have possession of the ball for 28 percent of the match, their dogged defence ran 12km more than Barca and this effort resulted in a comeback after a first leg loss to win on aggregate.
After this startling win, Atletico were still aptly listed as underdogs for their semi-final match-up against Bayern Munich.
The first leg of this match saw Atletico pinch a 1-0 win; this was always going to lead to a tense, emotional affair in the return clash.
The German side, led by Pep Guardiola, flooded the Atletico defence with wave after wave of attacks. The skill and power of Bayern was not lost on Diego Simeone, who told Spanish TV’s Antena 3 it was some of the best attack he’s ever seen.
“The first time we saw a tremendous team, pressure, play, positioning, pace, aerial power, speed – they were fantastic in the first half,” Simeone said.
But this Atletico side has been moulded to grind these attacks until they can pinch a chance and this came in the second half of the match. A missed penalty from Fernando Torres indicated Bayern would find a way to win.
“In the second half it was a different game, more balanced, we countered well and scored. That allowed us to get closer to the end, with the advantage of the goal at the Calderon,” Simeone said.
“Fernando showed personality to take the penalty, and it was a great save from the keeper. A penalty transmits something – 2-0 down would have been very difficult for us.
“The Champions League is being very nice for us, spectacular, but so difficult,” he continued.
“We have played against two of three best teams in the world. We went through, with difficulties, losing 2-1 in both away games. But at the [Estadio Vicente] Calderon we were very good against both Barca and Bayern.”
Atletico will face their cross-town rivals Real Madrid in the May 29 final.