Diego Simeone has explained why he believes the League is boring, why Radamel Falcao is so good and why Atletico Madrid have turned around.
The Coach arrived at the Vicente Calderon just under a year ago and is now ending 2012 with his team as Europa League and UEFA Super Cup holders, as well as second in the table behind Barcelona.
“A year ago we moved here and, frankly, everything went better than imagined. The players made a commitment, they were all behind an idea,” El Cholo reflected in an interview published today in El Espectador.
“And that is the reason for the success. When you take on a challenge, you always imagine the best. And that is possible from what you can get from the players. They are most important.
“And I found a predisposed squad, with attitude, commitment and desire. In December last year, Atletico was three or four points above the relegation zone and now we are fighting for the championship with Barcelona, something a little difficult, but we are near the top and that is an amazing thing.”
Simeone was asked where this Atleti team compare with previous successful editions of the club from its history.
“In the past 20 years, the 1991 and 1992 seasons, when we won the Copa del Rey, and the year of our double in 1995-96 have fallen far into our past. Now we have won the European Super Cup and the Europa League. We have managed with the players and the club has maintained a line, to be competitive, game by game. For the best approach, think of the objective as the next game coming up. But, it sounds repetitive, but I will say that the players are extremely important, they were behind an idea and have continued with it in every field that we have played.”
Specifically, the Coach was asked to discuss Falcao’s impact during his tenure. This season alone the Colombian has 17 League goals already to his name.
“Falcao is decisive. We could not be at our best without our individual players, the team understood this. We sought to act in harmony with him and have been rewarded in the best way. I knew his game, the team had to shape itself and exploit its best features, which in this case was Falcao.
“So we built a team around Falcao. And he has never tired of scoring goals. It has been crazy. I never saw such a thing, because he is good, he has a hunger, a need to grow and he knows that this is his strength, his forcefulness. As a Coach I have to say that he is the best I have worked with.
“In Argentina it is harder to introduce new ideas. But I have found some. It makes me happy to see Lucas Castro, Gonzalo Bergessio and Papu Gomez [all at former club Catania], guys I have shown what was going to happen to them later. This motivates us more than a championship.
“Obviously we want to win things, but to grow you must have a mental strength and be prepared for a lot. This is what I see in Radamel. He has come a long way.”
After losing to Barcelona at Camp Nou towards the end of the year, Simeone described the League as ‘boring’.
“Mourinho said the League was impossible. And if Real Madrid says this, you do not need to comment further. We’re second. At the end of the first half of the game at Barcelona we were in the strange situation of being at 1-2, without doing much wrong.
“I say that it is tedious that the intention of every team is to become champion. Barcelona is not boring, they are a super power playing with the rest. In the last four editions of the Champions League they have won two and lost the semi-finals in the others, and against Chelsea last year Messi missed a penalty, but they deserved to win.
“And that does not meet that they will not lose again, but these players, it’s hard to pass them. Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, Villa, Pedro… and then you add to that Messi! We are all playing for second or third place.”