Champions! Atlético Madrid held aloft a hard-earned Europa League trophy to take them back to the centre stage of European football. On Wednesday night they were the best team. On the eve of the game Simeone had summed it up perfectly: “We'll have to withstand the first twenty minutes, and then…” His assessment was uncanny as Marseille raced out of the blocks to put immediate pressure on the Atlético defence, creating a clear-cut chance in the early exchanges after Payet's fine through ball to Germain, who saw Oblak bearing down and blasted it high and wide. Marseille were the better team at that stage, playing with a high line, pushing up their centre-backs near the halfway line to counter Oblak’s distribution, pressing hard and driving forward with the support of their wailing, smoking fans. Permanently smoking.
Atlético take control
But then came Atlético's team spirit. And Griezmann. In a foray up the pitch towards the Marseille goal the Atlético strikers pressed high and finally forced an error. Mandanda hit a pass across to Anguissa, who miscontrolled the ball and saw it fall to the onrushing Griezmann, who produced a finish that oozed class. Shortly after that Payet was forced off with a muscle injury, hugged and consoled by his team-mates with a note of gloom in the air – he's that important to this side. Marseille proceeded to disappear in a puff of smoke, their strength spiriting away with those flares. The rest was written by Atlético, signing off with two more goals, one more for Griezmann and then one from Gabi.
Another landmark for Simeone in a joyous six years at the club; a landmark struck with the brilliance of Griezmann in his finest hour – his finest night may well help him to make the right decision because at least he knows that Atlético have all the right ingredients for footballing bliss. It was nice to see his smile just after the final whistle blew in the same way that it was a pleasure to see 'El Niño' Torres lifting silverware, sharing the moment with the skipper Gabi, in his final moments as a rojiblanco. The crowning glory for Atlético in a unique season which began with a transfer ban, continued with a new stadium to bed into, Champions League disappointment and now a European trophy. Atlético's fortunes are one big adventure.