22 Feb Atletico stored Simeone from Chelsea in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Would Blues strive once more after Champions League conflict?
The primary time Diego Simeone confronted Chelsea as supervisor of Atletico Madrid, it earned him a several-million-euro increase, further years on his contract and a spot within the Champions League last. Not one of the above are on provide on Tuesday when Los Rojiblancos host the membership from Stamford Bridge, albeit within the Romanian capital of Bucharest as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
The increase and the brand new contract got here as a result of, as is his wont, Roman Abramovich noticed one thing shiny, cool and engaging and instantly tried to accumulate it. It was the 2013-14 season. Then, as now, Atleti had been making the strongest potential case to be Spanish champions. They’d simply knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League, registering Simeone’s first win over the Blaugrana as a coach (he needed to wait till earlier this season, practically seven years later, to attain his first Liga win over them) and the semifinal draw had stored Atleti and Actual Madrid aside.
Jose Mourinho (in all probability nonetheless “The Particular One” again then slightly than “The Particular As soon as”) was Chelsea’s head coach, and with two Champions League medals plus a Europa League win to his credit score, was a robust favorite to place this uppity Argentinian again in his place.
Chelsea had coaxed Mourinho to return from Madrid, the place he’d handed Simeone, in his debut Atleti season, a few “Welcome to Spain” defeats (mixture 4-1) earlier than he responded with typical aggression by successful the Copa del Rey last towards Mourinho on the event of his final sport answerable for Madrid — and on the Santiago Bernabeu for good measure. Three targets, further time, the foundations of football not solely stretched to breaking level by either side however — as two purple playing cards had been proven to Gabi and Cristiano Ronaldo — chewed up and spat out. Atleti packed the massive outdated trophy of their package bag and spirited it off out of Madrid HQ.
This may be fairly totally different.
– Football4cast Soccer Champions choose ’em: Compete for $4,000 of Amazon.com present playing cards
– Stream Football4cast FC Every day on Football4cast+ (U.S. solely)
– Do not have Football4cast? Get prompt entry
Mourinho’s team fought out a 0-Zero draw at Atleti’s outdated Estadio Vicente Calderon fortress (it is now mere rubble and a web site awaiting improvement, a pity) and with simply 53 minutes of the tie left in London had been main 1-0 — mockingly sufficient by way of Atleti fanatic and one-time teenage captain Fernando Torres. However that Colchonero facet was a unique breed from this one, and, it is nonetheless up for argument, so was Simeone.
They hit again for 1-1 earlier than half-time, added two extra — together with a massively delayed penalty that Diego Costa ultimately slotted dwelling with ample glee — and certified for what can be the ultra-dramatic, uber-painful 2014 Champions League last in Lisbon. Towards Madrid. what occurred subsequent.
From the second Abramovich had purchased Chelsea in 2003, he’d coveted one thing Atleti had from birthright. It was to do with their identify. Abramovich had at all times believed that, for industrial and tourism causes, any team that did not have already got the identify of their metropolis in its official title — Glasgow Celtic, Manchester United, Barcelona, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain — ought to have that metropolis identify as an addendum: Atletico de Madrid, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and so on.
The Russian billionaire had used UBS bankers to evaluate a potential buy in Spain or Italy, together with Atleti themselves, earlier than deciding on Chelsea. He instantly created a working group to review two vital concepts: promoting Stamford Bridge and transferring to Wembley, and renaming his new toy “London Chelsea.”
Acquisitiveness, versus the sack-replace-win-sack-replace cycle that has grow to be the profitable central motif of his possession, was excessive on Abramovich’s agenda in these early years. Wayne Rooney, as quickly as he started scoring for Everton, was his first want — “How a lot to we now have to spend for that child?” he demanded to know from his right-hand man, Eugene Tenenbaum. Then it was Ronaldinho; Abramovich coveted the bewitching Brazilian from first sight and, famously, provided Mourinho, starting his first spell in cost, the Barcelona ahead as a welcome present. Mourinho rejected it, partly to indicate the proprietor that he was answerable for first-team issues, however his demand to purchase Didier Drogba as an alternative did not prove too badly.
Abramovich, earlier than the purpose when Atleti knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League on the verge of their third last since his 11-year, several-hundred-million-euro funding within the membership, had additionally tried to rent Sir Alex Ferguson at the very least twice. So when Atleti, as soon as on his record of potential buy targets, outplayed and beat the Blues within the final 50-something minutes of their 2014 tie, Abramovich needed to accumulate once more. He instructed his recruitment employees to start discovering out what it will take to tempt this fiery, inspirational, super-intense Argentinian to make Chelsea as sturdy and as irresistible as Atleti had been.
Contacts had been made with Simeone’s sister, Natalia, who represents him, and Chelsea planted the seed that he, and his assistant German “Mono” Burgos, would take over in summer season 2015. However Atleti pressed the pair of Argentinians as tightly and intensely because the team, beneath Simeone, ever pressed opponents on the pitch. They promised more cash, double actually, 5 years added to his deal (till 2020) and a evaluate of the gamers Simeone needed to usher in or have tied to the undertaking by way of larger contracts. By March 2015 the battle was received, quickly: Atleti had fought off Abramovich.
However seeds like that, as soon as planted, usually regrow. When Abramovich sacked Mourinho midway by way of the 2015-16 season, Chelsea nonetheless needed to know whether or not the Man in Black (which stays Simeone’s matchday wardrobe to today) would stroll the road from Spain’s capital to England’s. Guus Hiddink was put in momentary cost however Chelsea invited Natalia again to London — all of which Simeone made scrupulously certain that his employers had been conscious of; he is a straight-shooter so far as honour and correct relationships with Atleti’s homeowners are involved.
By that stage the stakes had been totally different. Simeone had a really winnable tie with PSV Eindhoven within the Champions League spherical of 16 a few weeks away. And, because it proved, he’d go on to take Atleti to the ultimate of that competitors once more — one thing that earned his membership €70 million from UEFA. He’d additionally labored his option to second within the La Liga title chase, simply six factors behind Barcelona. (Atletico would in the end end simply three factors off the highest.) Good cash had just lately been invested in Yannick Carrasco, Toby Alderweireld, Stefan Savic, Filipe Luis, Thomas Partey, Oliver Torres, Jackson Martinez and Augusto Fernandez. The lure of staying was robust.
Furthermore, strive as he may, Simeone discovered that his English-language lessons merely could not assist him grasp the language through which he’d crucially require to be fluent in so as to each coach, however simply as importantly, transmit his beguiling, inspiring character if he had been to take cost at Chelsea and pursue Premier League and Champions League domination. He already knew what Gary Neville solely found at Valencia: work by way of a translator on the coaching floor and, 9 instances out of ten, you lose an excessive amount of of what made you engaging to the membership within the first place.
Simply as a information to how robust Chelsea’s, and particularly Abramovich’s, conviction was about Simeone and his strategies between late 2014 and once more in early 2016, when it was lastly clear that they weren’t going to be married, look who was the following everlasting appointment after Mourinho after which the tip of Hiddink’s caretaker stint. They went out and bought his twin: Antonio Conte was virtually indistinguishable from Simeone in angle, ideas, depth and successful mentality. Name him the Italian Simeone if you want — it is not removed from a bullseye description.
As destiny needed it to be, Conte’s Chelsea and Simeone’s Atleti locked horns within the Champions League (the final time these two Euro pretenders met) simply months after the Italian gifted Abramovich his fifth Premier League title. In some way, remarkably, the battle was really helpful for either side.
At first look, Conte and Chelsea had been comprehensively the winners, knocking Los Colchoneros out on the the final matchday of Group C in December 2017. However, and that is so sometimes Simeone, whereas Conte and Chelsea had been then being thrashed 4-1 by Barcelona within the spherical of 16, European season in tatters, Simeone & Co. dropped down into the Europa League received seven out of their subsequent 9 matches, together with eliminating Arsenal, and received the match because of man-of-the-match Antoine Griezmann’s brace within the 3-Zero victory over Marseille within the last.
And, now, right here they’re once more. Chelsea newly refurbished and considerably more durable to beat beneath Thomas Tuchel. Atleti main La Liga, Simeone just lately contractually renewed on what’s in all probability the most important wage for any coach on this planet (round €20m a season) till 2024 however struggling badly with accidents and a spate of COVID absences.
What does the resumption of this lengthy, bumpy story of affection from Chelsea in the direction of one among Argentina’s nice football males have in retailer for us this time? Tuchel’s facet, you may effectively argue, begin with kind and momentum on their facet. However this “dwelling” sport is being performed on the positioning of Simeone’s first trophy win answerable for Atleti: Bucharest’s Nationwide Enviornment the place, having taken cost of a moribund, characterless team at Christmas 201,1 he impressed them to thump Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao 3-Zero within the 2012 Europa League last.
One thing related on Tuesday night would do properly for Simeone.