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Last night, Cristiano Ronaldo put the final nail in the coffin of this wonderful Atletico Madrid era. Atleti manager Diego Simeone has performed miracles the likes of which we have not seen perhaps since Brian Clough. The legendary Clough did wonderful things with Nottingham Forest including winning the European cup twice. Forest were underdogs who usurped the established elite. That is exactly what Simeone has done at the Vicente Caldron.
Since he took over in 2011, Simeone has led the Rojoblancos to the Europa League, Copa Del Rey and most gloriously, the Liga trophy. The only major title to elude Simeone during the past six years is the Champions League. As we know, they did manage to finish as runners up twice, losing in unfortunate circumstances each time to rivals Real Madrid.
This missing piece of the puzzle would have eaten away at Simeone. In fact it’s clear that it has driven him on and made him relentless. This season, we’ve seen a little bit of that spark vanish. Gone are the hyper aggressive, backs-against-the-wall Atletico Madrid. Instead we’ve seen a more expansive, passing team that doesn’t defend as well as before. It all seems a bit strange. As if the team has lost a bit of its soul. That’s not to say they haven’t done well this season. They will finish third in La Liga and as Champions League semi finalists. However, the signs are ominous.
Simeone has openly flirted with Inter Milan and they are batting their eyes right back at him. Talisman Antoine Griezmann has done the same with Manchester United, because he feels Simeone’s time is up. Their futures are linked. Jan Oblak looks like he could join his teammate in Manchester if Real Madrid finally fix their fax machine and sign David De Gea. Godin is getting on in his career and so is Juanfran. Lord knows Fernando Torres can’t take over from Griezmann.
It’s not all gloom and doom however. Saul, Koke, Carrasco and Gimenez are fantastic young players who will contribute greatly to the future of Atletico Madrid. The team will move into their new 70,000 capacity stadium next season. As a result the club will see more match day revenue and financial stability over time. The future could be very bright but the light at the end of the tunnel is very hard to see without Diego Simeone. Let’s hope that he changes his mind and leads Atleti into a glorious future or else the ghosts of Diego and memories at the Calderon may loom large over Atletico Madrid for years to come.