Results are what matters. It’s what keeps managers at their jobs. It’s what brings in the fans. Diego Simeone, without a shadow of a doubt, has done an incredible job with Atletico Madrid since taking over. But there’s more to football, especially for those looking from the outside, than just what the scoreboard is showing at the end of a match.
For those supporting the romantic rise of Atletico Madrid in dominance in both the Spanish La Liga (winning the championship last season for the first time since 1996) and the UEFA Champions League (making it to the final for the first time in over 40 years), this is a brave, feisty, disciplined, combative team that leaves it all on the pitch each match. The definition of hard workers. Working class heroes, making millions of Euros.
But that’s just a mask. Simeone is fire, breathing flames at his players, at opponents, at referees. And that fire isn’t just passion for winning. It creates motivation, maybe at the highest level right now in football. It also comes with an uglier side. Dirty fouls, dirty tricks, wasting time, faking injuries – the whole book. Simeone and Atletico Madrid aren’t the first to use it. They aren’t the first to win with it. But teams can succeed while avoiding what is cheating basically, although is called in so many other names.
Beating Juventus 1-0 wasn’t a surprise or undeserved. Both teams didn’t really come to play exciting football. It was mostly about avoiding mistakes. But officials tend to be very helpful to Atletico inside the Vicente Calderon. Football, believe it or not, isn’t exactly a fair match for 90 minutes. Referees aren’t part of the match, or at least shouldn’t be, but the way they’re affected by the atmosphere determines so much.
Atletico Madrid aren’t playing for the rest of the world – they’re playing for their fans. They’re not trying to set new records and highs in aestethics. They’re simply out there to win, positioning themselves as the great underdogs compared to Barcelona and Real Madrid.
But it doesn’t come with some flowing football that sweeps the world support with them. They’re the 2004 Greek team, with a bit more flair. Once they stop being the refreshing renegades, the hate from more than just Barcelona and Real Madrid will start taking over the minds of “neutrals” who find them so enchanting at the moment.