A friend of mine calls Atlético a ‘binary code team' - all because of the results they get: 1-0, 0-0, 1-1, 0-1... It’s a bit of a generalization - obviously that’s not always the case but it perfectly illustrates the kind of outcome Simeone likes. One goal, maybe from a set-piece close to the rival box, then sit back and let time do the rest of the job so that the game ends in a slim result – and of course, always taking it one game at a time. That’s the formula with which Simeone has won a lot – in the process making this one of the most successful spells in Atleti’s history. The bedrock of that success has been modesty, discretion, rigour and hard graft. Simeone has come to be looked at as a social model to aspire to - and with good reason.
Time for Atlético to step up a gear
But time has moved on, Atlético have grown (largely down to him) and now there’s a sense that they’re not forging ahead. Griezmann is the best-paid player in the capital, taking more that Madrid’s superstars. That was the only way of keeping him from Barça’s clutches. But apart from that, there are murmurs of restlessness bubbling in the stands and within the squad. For years they have lived with hope and emotion, as El Cholo has crafted and managed a winning side out of the barest of resources. With far less than Real Madrid and Barça, his Atleti snatched a league from under their noses and came extremely close to winning the Champions League twice. For all of that, Atleti fans have let him off for the lack of flair to Atleti’s game.
The great Atlético sides of the past
But now it’s all starting to feel a bit hollow. The generation of Atlético fans who started supporting the club when it was in the Second Division see Simeone as some sort of Christ the Redeemer figure, because in many ways he is, and that's why they worship him with such devotion. But there are other, previous generations of atléticos, whose memories stretch back further - for instance to the double-winning team featuring Kiko and Caminero; or going back a few years more, the days of [Armando] Ufarte, Luis [Aragonés] and [José Eulogio] Gárate – or even further back, the days of Peiró and Collar. For those, the provisional, honeymoon period is now over. El Cholo has a squad packed with excellent players who are certainly capable of producing more than one, measly goal against Rayo and have the ability and skill to push forward into the rival box whilst knowing that Oblak will save them if they get caught on the hop. Those players are starting to get a little impatient.