All season long Diego Simeone was heralded as the big winner, hero and architect of Atletico Madrid, leading them to the Champions League final and the La Liga title. But then the hottest manager in the world goes on to make two incredible mistakes on the biggest stage: Starting (again) with an injured Diego Costa, and taking out Raul Garcia, which was probably the move that lost him the match.
Simeone didn’t lose because of the few minutes Costa was on the pitch. Adrian Lopez did a decent job while Atletico Madrid were still trying to play football, and they’ve done well without Costa in the past, just like in the draw with Barcelona at the Camp Nou that won them the title.
But Costa’s injury isn’t something that just disappears. He had to be pulled off in the first half of that match against Barcelona. Wasting a substitution in a match that has the potential of going to extra time is ignoring all the signs, and foolish. Simeone admitted later on it was a very big mistake believing that Costa would somehow be able to do the impossible.
So maybe a worn out Atletico Madrid, slightly broken from conceding such a late goal, fighting feelings of being robbed by the referee who added too many minutes to injury time in their opinion, would have done better with a pair of fresh legs on the pitch as the teams were headed into the 91st minute. But that’s hypothetical.
What’s easier to spot is when Atletico Madrid lost control of the match. Real Madrid had a few dangerous moments through the first 65 minutes, but nothing persistent, and no pressure that lasted for more than a minute or two. No momentum, no creativity. Atletico Madrid tend to take that factor out of even the best opponents. But then something happened that Diego Simeone reacted to and badly.
Isco and Marcelo were sent to the pitch, and instead of keeping his formation intact with slight adjustments while keeping control of the midfield, Simeone decided he’ll park the bus. How? He took out Raul Garcia, who was fantastic up to that point along with Gabi in the middle of the pitch. Jose Sosa came on, giving Atletico Madrid nothing offensively while not doing a very good job of tracking anyone on the wing.
Simeone lost his cool and calm (not that he’s the most calm person anyway) as the game slipped away from him. No one is saying Raphael Varane did the classiest of things by kicking the ball softly at the Argentine, but Simeone walking around like a bully trying to take some heads with him before he disappears into the night didn’t add anything to an already abysmal night in terms of game-management from someone who hardly made any mistakes all season long.