Simeone and Valverde renew contracts with Atleti and Barça
Coincidentally and significantly, both Atlético Madrid and Barça elected the same week to confirm contract renewals for their respective head coaches. I say significantly as both men have seen their teams toil in recent weeks, just as the season enters a critical phase and coincides with the "common enemy" Real Madrid finally seeming to galvanise after months of turmoil. The renewal of both individuals carries a double message: it strengthens the position of each coach and also transmits a sense of solidity externally within the football club. By confirming each deal now, wayward speculation is eliminated and the photo of a coach renewing his deal always carries a positive message. Time will tell is each coach actually carries out his contractual term, but that's a discussion matter for another day...
These are similar cases, but each with it's own idiosyncrasy. Simeone has been integral in writing a wonderful chapter in the recent history of Atlético Madrid. Under his leadership, Atléti have made the step-up into a different category and are now firmly established as one of European football's top teams. He's become a social reference point for every fan and his mantra of ‘partido a partido’ (taking every game as it comes) has been engraved as the 'modus operandi' for the club. Now with his side firmly established as one of the bigger players in the European game, there are those now demanding that the brand of football employed by the coach gets a reboot and becomes more attractive. Despite these pleas for a different style of play, many point to his abrasive style and support it as over the years it has delivered results for the club.
Valverde is a different matter. Simeone is so ingrained into the Atletico Madrid DNA, that a friend of mine recently joked that: it's not Atlético Madrid renewing Simeone's deal but the Argentine letting Atléti renew the deal, a nod to where the power base lies possibly in this relationship. It is however fair to say that Valverde's influence at Barcelona pails into comparison of that of Simeone's with Atleti. The power-base at the Catalan club is unquestionably Lionel Messi, but Valverde has been good at safely steering the ship after the recent loss of key and iconic players (Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta...) and is quietly making the transition from a club that achieved huge levels of success in the not too recent part.