Manager Profile - Diego Simeone

The Man Behind Atletico Madrid’s Success

Personal information
Full name: Diego Pablo Simeone Gonzalez 
Date of birth: 28 April 1970 
Age: 45
Place of birth: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Height: 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) 
Playing position: Defensive midfielder 

Club information
Current team: Atletico Madrid (manager)

Senior career
1987–1990: Velez Sarsfield 76 Appearances, 14 goals
1990–1992: Pisa 55 Appearances, 6 goals 
1992–1994: Sevilla 64 Appearances, 12 goals 
1994–1997: Atletico Madrid 98 Appearances, 21 goals 
1997–1999: Internazionale 57 Appearances, 11 goals 
1999–2003: Lazio 90 Appearances, 15 goals 
2003–2005: Atletico Madrid 36 Appearances, 2 goals
2005–2006: Racing Club 37 Appearances, 3 goals   

National career
1989: Argentina U20 4 Appearances, 1 goal 
1988: Argentina U23 10 Appearances, 2 goals 
1988–2002 Argentina 106 Appearances, 11 goals  

Togetherness and teamwork - that is what Atletico's game is based on. There is only a little individual brilliance, compared to the huge collective effort. Inspired by one man; the same man who has turned them from also-rans to a team to dread playing. Simeone is polite and respectful. He doesn't upset his players, but does inspire the same devotion and allegiance. Not just from his squad, but the fans too. Following Atletico Madrid’s 3-2 aggregate victory over Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, Simeone and his men stood out on a balcony to salute the fans, who were singing outside for the best part of an hour, lighting flares and hailing their heroes. These are beautiful days for Rojiblanco fans, the players and Simeone as well. There are lots of odd partnerships in football, but Simeone and Atletico is a match made in heaven.   

Even his nickname, Cholo, speaks of street swagger and menace. It means a kid from the neighborhood, sometimes with gang connections, a slightly derogatory word. But Simeone has embraced it, like his Atletico take other factors that could be seen as negatives to heart. They are the underdogs and that's how they like it. ‘That’s our strength,’ said the coach before the game. ‘Knowing they are better than us’. Dressed head-to-toe in black, almost without exception, he is not a man to be crossed. The intensity he carried himself with as a player, during his two spells at Atletico, in Italy’s Serie A and with the Argentine national team has transferred to his direction in the Spanish capital. If Simeone stays, the Argentine can build Atletico into one of the most feared teams to play in world football. He captivates hearts and minds, with supporters loving him more than any of the team’s individual players. Since he took over in December 2011, Atletico have been on the rise. He took them to a fifth place finish in his first season, third in 2012-13, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since 1996-97, before reaching the final the following year, to go along with the club’s first league title since the 1995-1996 campaign—when he was there and won it as a player.

The Argentine has worked wonders with Atletico. He has had money to spend, but much of it generated by big money sales of players like Diego Costa and Mario Mandzukic  and less than the two giants of the game whose noses he has put out of joint. Real Madrid and Barcelona suffer against Atletico like they never have before. Given his resources and results, it is hard to argue that Simeone is one of the best managers in the world. Not only did they beat them on the night, but a 3-2 aggregate win over Barcelona is an outstanding feat. To score more goals over 180 minutes than the best attack in the world, possibly even the three best players in the world, is remarkable. Rather like the statistic of keeping 13 clean sheets in their last 16 Champions League matches. Barcelona barely created anything of note, with 20-year-old Lucas Hernandez slotting in alongside Diego Godin at centre-back like he was born to play on big nights like this, with Jose Gimenez out injured. When the plan is less based on individual talent than team force, it’s easier for players like him to step in. The current European and world champions just looked like any other team out there, players like Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets generic ‘opponents’, while the energy of Saul, precision of Antoine Griezmann and running of Yannick Carrasco was what caught the eye. All players that have taken great leaps forward under Simeone. His players look like soldiers out there on the pitch, following his command with military precision. Only when they deviate can things go wrong. 

Times are less hard for Atletico in the Simeone era. Now it is onwards and upwards for both team and coach. Following the same pattern they have done since he arrived. It doesn’t matter who they draw—no side looks forward to a night at the Calderon. The hardest of the hard work has been done. To eliminate Barcelona from the Champions League is almost a prize in itself. The semi-final draw would inevitably be easier, right? Wrong. They could have faced Real Madrid, against whom they have taken four La Liga points this season, or Champions League rookies Manchester City, but they were paired against Bayern Munich. Atleti's historic nickname of "El Pupas" - the cursed one - strikes again. Observers, pundits and bookmakers alike will see Bayern as favourites and the role of massive underdogs will suit Simeone to a tee. The Calderon faithful will dare to dream, just as they did against Barcelona. In fact, they can do more than just dream. They can believe. With Simeone at the helm, anything is possible for this Atletico Madrid side.