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Seven years of Diego Simeone at Atlético Madrid...


Diego Simeone celebrated his seventh anniversary as Atlético Madrid manager on December 23. It is not a trivial statistic. It is increasingly rare these days to find an instance of such longevity and even rarer still to find a case of one man having such a profound effect on a club. Simeone inherited an Atlético riddled with pessimism, a club that had started to view itself as a romantic loser, a literary association that did not pay tribute to its history, and he indelibly altered that panorama. Game by game, Simeone has taken Atlético to fourth in the UEFA club rankings, on a budget that stands 13th in Europe. He has also allowed Atlético to swell its coffers in that respect, victories being the bedrock of income.

Based around the impetus of Simeone’s virtues and with the sound management of the many worthy people at the club, starting with those in the boardroom, everything about Atlético has grown over the last seven years. Nothing symbolizes this expansion more than the Metropolitano, a wonderful stadium for a wonderful club. We live in times when Atlético have been capable of the unthinkable, such as their ability to retain the services of Antoine Griezmann and Koke, both of whom were seriously courted by Barcelona. It wasn’t so long ago that Atlético was a stepping stone for players, a waiting room for a move to one of Europe’s bigger clubs. Now world-class players see it as a great place to be on its own merits, due to its family feel, because of titles won and… for the money they can earn.

But all of a sudden, a fly has been dropped into the celebratory soup: Lucas Hernández is involved in what appears to be more than a serious flirtation with Bayern Munich; an unexpected setback, which serves to highlight how delicate the business of managing football is. Keeping hold of Griezmann required a huge financial effort. By handing the France striker such a whopping pay rise, there is now a queue of players waiting to ask for an improved deal and there isn’t enough money to go around. These days, it isn’t possible to rob Peter to pay Paul, because LaLiga rules prohibit it; only Reus have managed to find their way out of that predicament and I’m still not sure how. Lucas, a great defender and World Cup winner, is the only shadow hanging over Simeone’s anniversary.