Atletico Madrid: The Simeone Effect
The Atletico Madrid dressing room is not unlike many others in modern day professional football. It's a hornets' nest of egos and big personalities. It's full of big stars on big money contracts who need to be constantly kept happy and be loved or they're likely to throw a hissy fit.
This is also a club that expects success. It's a club that has invested heavily in players but has achieved very little. As is the case, it's not the players who suffer for this disappointment but the manager. The Rojiblancos have had a revolving door policy on coaches in recent history and the same old problems persist. But the latest man to take his place in the dugout of the Vicente Calderon may be about to change that.
On December 23rd 2011, Atletico hired Diego Simeone as successor to Gregorio Manzano after the latter's dismissal following a poor start to the season. Simeone is a former player at Atletico; a member of the double winning side in 1996. The Argentine had a reputation for being a hard man and has brought that image with him into management. Simeone pledged to put a bit of bite back into Atletico Madrid.
Fighting spirit is something Atletico's stars have lacked in recent years. They've often faltered in tough situations and they have a notoriously timid defence. One of Simeone's first tasks as manager was to make a decision on problem child Jose Antonio Reyes. One of Atletico's biggest talents, Reyes had fallen out with Manzano and made it quite clear that he wanted out. With little haste Simeone gave him the boot; a player with no desire to work for the team had no place at the club and he headed to Seville.
The Simeone effect has been noticeable in his few months in charge. The club have only been beaten once since he took charge – to Barcelona (at the time of writing) – and they've done well in the Europa League, reaching the Quarter-Finals this week. The team is working a lot harder and is defending better. Simeone was a warrior of player in his day and demands the same enthusiasm from his players.
For the first time in many years Atletico Madrid actually look like a team. The club could finish the season strongly as they look one of the better sides in the Europa League and the race for the fourth Champions League spot is still wide open at the moment. Simeone is a popular coach with the fans of Atletico, not just because he is a former player but because of he believes in working hard for the club; and under his leadership Atletico may become a force in La Liga once more.