Among the pleasantries which were exchanged ahead of this evening’s appetising tie between Manchester City and Atlético, Simeone let slip a comment which could be interpreted as a depth charge. “In all of the clubs that I have been at, I’ve never had the possibility of having the likes of Xavi, Messi, Iniesta… young and in their prime. Regardless of how immensely talented Guardiola is, he was lucky enough to have great players”. He has a point, but it does beg the question: Would Simeone have been comfortable managing those players? And would they have been as comfortable playing for him as they were under Guardiola?
Simeone and Guardiola, two schools of thought
While Guardiola scoffed at the idea of differing styles, it’s something which is undeniably there, and even more so now. Football is, among other things, a talking point - you need only to go into any restaurant in Madrid or Barcelona and listen to what the majority of the punters will be saying about this tie. To simplify it, one team will be trying to take the initiative while the other will prefer to let the other team have the ball and wait for them to make a mistake. Sure, the act of resolving the game will be up to the players, but they are chosen and instructed by both coaches and told to follow a gameplan.
Guardiola’s model and Simeone’s are poles apart, however much they have evolved as coaches during their respective careers. Even when he has been without Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, Guardiola’s teams have always played quality football. He demonstrated that at both Bayern and City, although without the same panache as his famous Barça side. Recently, Simeone has been signing better players and the current Atlético side is not as rough and ready as previous ones. Nevertheless, they remain two very different styles, but with one common aim - to win. The tie will be played and one of them will go through to the semis, but the debate over contrasting styles will continue because in football, to quote legendary Spanish bullfighter Rafael Guerra, the truth is as broad as it is long.