George Orwell once described the work of Rudyard Kipling as having two types of fans: those that only know the poem If and those that know the rest of his work.
That may be a strange comment to begin a football article but it springs to mind when one thinks of Diego Simeone – there are those who know him for the incident with David Beckham in the 1998 World Cup and there are those that know about the player who won 12 major titles.
As a Coach he has won silverware in Argentina, saved Catania from relegation in Italy and won Atletico’s first domestic trophy since 1996. Little wonder then that he is in demand.
In December 2011 when Albacete beat Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey, little did those who mournfully scuffled out of Vicente Calderon know that it was the start of something amazing. Whilst Gregorio Manzano was facing the Press for the last time, in Argentina news was breaking that Cholo had resigned from Racing Club.
Weeks before Manzano was sacked fans had been calling for his head and chanted Cholo’s name. Few expected a club that had gone through 49 managers would listen to its fans but less than a week later, the former captain was unveiled.
Little less than 30 months into the job, Simeone is now one of the world’s best Coaches and has performed miracles at Calderon.
Fans were excited but also a little nervous when he was appointed. Whilst he had had success in Argentina and done well in Italy, he still hadn’t stayed longer than 14 months at one club. As mentioned, Atletico had gone through 49 managers since 1986, when the Gil family started their reign at the club, and some were worried that Simeone wouldn’t be given a proper chance. But, seeing the opportunity to jump on the popularity bandwagon, both majority shareholders stood side by side and supported their Coach 100%.
The result has seen the club win three trophies in two years, return to the Champions League and currently sit on top of La Liga. All of this whilst repaying a tax debt of over €200m by selling their best players and having limited funds to sign replacements and pay wages. FIFA may have ignored Simeone’s accomplishments two years running in their Coach of the Year award but some of Europe’s top clubs haven’t.
Last season Cholo was linked with Chelsea. Nobody really believed that he was in the running for the job but his name was still popping up for some big vacancies. Tata Martino had a great start at Barca but rumours have been circulating since December that the Argentine wanted to leave at the end of the season.
Since then the club’s season has somewhat derailed and so the club are believed to be looking at possible replacements now and Cholo’s name is being linked.
When David Moyes was sacked by Manchester United, Cholo’s name also appeared on the shortlist. The Coach has said that he isn’t interested but if an offer came that was too hard to ignore, Atletico may hang on to him but may end up looking for Coach No. 51.
Simeone has worked wonders at Atletico. From a club that couldn’t defend to the Zamora award winners in less than 18 months, they look likely to win it again this season.
He controls everything and has his own backroom staff that would come with him should he move to another club. Simeone’s style may not be the most attractive but his supporters would argue that he is doing the best with what he has got. He has won lots of praise for the way he has turned average footballers into title contenders and it would appear that it is only time before he is tempted away.
Who knows, maybe if he was to go to England, he might finally get recognised for a football career that started in 1987 and has been successful before and after than one moment in 1998.