- Won the UEFA Europa League with Atletico Madrid after three trophyless years
- Third consecutive nomination for The Best
- His focus is now on bringing youngsters through and holding on to the club’s star players
“If you believe and you work, you can achieve,” said Diego Pablo Simeone back in 2014, voicing what has become his slogan as Atletico Madrid coach.
Nominated for the third year running for The Best FIFA Men's Coach, Simeone uttered those words when celebrating Los Rojiblancos’ league title win that year, a triumph that ended a decade of Liga domination by Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Though not El Cholo’s first trophy for the club, it was his most significant so far, as a side known for its spirit and determination made the transition to genuine contenders for every trophy going, a status they have maintained ever since.
Though trophyless between 2015 and 2017, Simeone has continued to innovate and fine-tune his successful approach to coaching, injecting fresh impetus into his reign as Atleti coach and attracting a wealth of talent to a club that now has three FIFA World Cup Russia 2018™ winners on its books.
Did you know?
- Simeone’s Atletico conceded only 22 goals in La Liga in 2017/18, fewer than any other team in Europe’s five major leagues.
- The Argentinian has won a club-record seven trophies during his tenure (the UEFA Super Cup claimed on 15 August came outside the time period that applies to this year's award process).
- Has now spent eight straight seasons in charge at Atleti, the longest run by any of the club’s coaches in the Spanish top flight.
- Simeone is currently the second-longest serving coach in the European elite, behind Frenchman Stephane Moulin, who has been in charge at Angers SCO since July 2011)
- A few months ago he extended his contract with Los Colchoneros through to June 2020.
Very much his own person, Simeone has refined his management style over the years. Having put his faith in experienced performers at the start of his tenure, he has since brought through bright young talents such as Saul, Thomas and Lucas Hernandez, demanding the very highest standards from them.
“Simeone has changed my life,” Hernandez told Argentinian sports daily Diario Olé minutes after lifting the World Cup Trophy with France in Moscow. “There’s no doubt that I’ve become the player I am thanks to him,” added the full-back, one of the breakout stars of Russia 2018, making it clear who has been responsible for his sudden emergence.
Another prominent figure in this new-look Atletico is Saul, who has also voiced his praise for Simeone. “I’ll always be grateful to him,” the young Spain midfielder said a few months ago. “He gave my debut and there aren’t many who speak as plainly as he does.”
Long-term projects are founded on more than just feelings and a commitment to youth. Star players and icons are also essential elements. Fernando Torres was both. “I was fortunate enough to come back to the Atleti I’d always dreamed of,” said the departing striker in May, having earlier gone back to lend his weight to an attack diminished by Diego Costa’s departure for Chelsea.
Like Torres, Costa also found the lure of a return irresistible. “If I leave, then the only place I’m going is Atleti,” he said during his time in London. And when the move finally came about, the Brazilian-born Spain striker played his part in the Madrid club’s latest European triumphs.
But if there is one relationship central to the emergence of this current Atleti side it is that between Simeone and Antoine Griezmann. A low-key signing in 2014, Grizi has been hitting heights that would have been impossible without the influence of the Argentinian. “El Cholo has made me one of the three best players in the world and I owe him a lot,” said the French striker in the lead-up to Russia 2018.
That influence played a big part in the No7 turning down an offer from Barcelona to stay with Los Rojiblancos, not to mention Simeone’s ability to keep his star players on board, a gift that ensures his living legacy remains very much intact.