Commitment, professionalism and no little talent were among the hallmarks of Diego Pablo Simeone's playing career, which included promising beginnings at Velez Sarsfield, spells at European heavyweights Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Lazio, appearances at three FIFA World Cups™ and finally a return to his homeland with his beloved Racing Club.
Having taken his first steps on the coaching ladder at the Avellaneda outfit, El Cholo (The Indian) is currently at the helm of Almagro side San Lorenzo, a role he has held since April this year. In between he orchestrated league-title successes at both Estudiantes La Plata and River Plate. After taking training with his El Ciclon charges, the 39-year-old former Argentina international took the time to answer questions put to him by FIFA.com users.
Ahawachiw: How did you feel the first time you took the field on your Argentinian top-flight debut?
Diego Simeone: Excited and nervous but really happy. At that moment I didn't care if there were 10, 100 or 1,000 people watching, because I was living up to my expectations. If I'm not mistaken it was on 13 September 1987. We lost 2-1 against Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, but if I'm honest, I played very well.
Asikoja: What was your main asset throughout your career?
Perseverance. I always demanded a lot of myself, I set targets and went for them without letting myself get distracted. I had one of the most important things a footballer can have, which is knowing your strengths as well as your weaknesses. I always tried to conceal my weak points. For example I used to struggle to turn with the ball, so I'd avoid receiving it with my back to goal, and I'd decide what I was going to do with the ball before receiving it so as not to get caught in possession. My footballing qualities were being combative, marking aggressively and arriving late in goalscoring positions.
I had one of the most important things a footballer can have, which is
knowing your strengths as well as your weaknesses. I always tried to
conceal my weak points.
youssef: Where does your nickname come from?
There used to be a Simeone at Boca Juniors who they called Cholo but that's not how I got my nickname. It happened when one of my primary school teachers Oscar Nesi called me it and it just stuck.
Argentino: If you hadn't become a footballing legend, what other careers might you have pursued?
In secondary school they once asked us what we wanted to be. Someone said a lawyer, one said an accountant and another said a doctor. When I said 'footballer', everybody burst out laughing! If football hadn't worked out I planned to study Physical Education.
Mohaned: What was the worst moment of your career?
When I broke my knee before the 2002 World Cup. I was playing for Lazio against a Dutch team in the Champions League. I jumped up and when I landed on my left leg it didn't support my weight and the right one went 'crack'. I knew straightaway something bad had happened because it felt like my knee had gone. The recovery process was very tough: I couldn't walk for two months and after that my life revolved around the knee. It was worth it though because I ended up playing at that World Cup.
SultanZidane: I've followed Argentina since I was a boy and I feel that the 1994 side was the best national team I've seen since Brazil's 1970 team. How does it feel to have played alongside [Diego] Maradona, [Fernando] Redondo, [Claudia] Caniggia and [Gabriel] Batistuta?
I feel proud. The three national teams I was part of were very good but the 1994 squad, at least in terms of big names, was the best-equipped. We were hailed as the 'hot favourites' after the first two matches (at USA 1994) and that's why I don't like that tag anymore. There's so much that can change. Our best performance was against Romania, but we only took two of the umpteen chances we were able to create even without Diego and Caniggia. They had three opportunities, took all three and knocked us out.
syncmast0: Do you think Argentina will ever see another Maradona?
Yes, we're close. [Lionel] Messi, though he won't be a new Maradona because everyone's different, could go very close. We need to wait, he's still young and time will tell.
Rafael16319: Which of these two instances were harder to take: Dennis Bergkamp's late winner at France 1998 or the first-round exit at Korea/Japan 2002?
Bergkamp's goal. We were on the path to something big, we had an extra man and it seemed that we were on our way to extra time. Then came that 50-metre long ball that Bergkamp finished wonderfully. And to think that days earlier Yugoslavia had scored a similar goal against the Netherlands, and all of us at our base were wondering how they could have conceded a goal like that, with the entire defence facing forward. We'd had so much hope and the frustration we felt was just as great.
Rafael16319: What was the most difficult part of being captain and leader of a national squad studded with star names like Batistuta, [Juan] Veron, [Javier] Zanetti and Co?
Taking decisions, because it's never easy and you always take risks. But I'd been getting used to that role since I was a boy and it never weighed heavy on me. We talked things through face to face and I never had any problems.
rodrigo02: Which rival did you fear the most?
There was no player or team in particular. In fact, I feared myself the most because I knew that if I wasn't mentally prepared to give 100 per cent in every game then I wasn't the same player.
Duncanc81: You once admitted provoking David Beckham prior to his red card at France 1998. If the situation repeated itself, would you behave differently?
No, but remember that the way I got a reaction out of him was part of the game. The idea was to let him know that I was around, not to get him sent off.
dcg-imports: Do you think Argentina will qualify for South Africa 2010?
Yes. Not that you can't have a World Cup without Argentina, but the national squad have got great players and a coach who knows what playing a qualifying phase and winning a World Cup is like.
That was and always will be unfinished business for me from my playing
days. Later, as a coach, you never know what opportunities fate might
throw your way.
Pincharrata7: What changes did you have to make when you went from player to coach?
Loads. The main ones were understanding that you're not a player anymore and that you're not sharing a dressing room with them, that you have to make different decisions and you have different working hours from them. But I love it: it's a role that makes me feel alive and which always keeps me on my toes.
wilduv: Who would start in your team: Diego Simeone or Javier Mascherano, and why?
Mascherano, because he's better! Listen, I wasn't a No5 like him, I was more of a box-to-box player. Actually, if it was my team then I'd play every game, with either Mascherano or Veron alongside me depending on the match.
Sven 23: Is there any one title that you'd have liked to have won during your career?
The World Cup, no doubt about it. That was and always will be unfinished business for me from my playing days. Later, as a coach, you never know what opportunities fate might throw your way.
Vengador07: Do you think you'll be Argentina coach one day?
It would be easy to say 'yes', but the truth is that I don't know. The way I am and the way I work has always been about focusing on the present, and my present is San Lorenzo. Football is very dynamic and the coaching profession even more so. You have to do a good job where you are at the moment in order to end up where you want to be in the future.
FIFA.com: Which question did you like best and why?
The one about which was my main asset as a player. If you know your strengths and weaknesses then you can always improve. And that's what I try to do every day.