Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughSimeone’s Atletico provide the side-track to the Clasico - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Simeone’s Atletico provide the side-track to the Clasico - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Simeone’s Atletico provide the side-track to the Clasico


As with every passing week over in Spain, the Jose Mourinho soap opera seems to dominate the landscape as his battle for squad politics with defender Sergio Ramos rolling over into the build-up to the always contentious Clasico at the Nou Camp this Sunday evening. However, as Mourinho and new kid on the block Tito Vilanova hold the platform ahead of Sunday’s huge meeting, there is another threat seemingly building for the special one’s crown as Spanish champion emanating far closer than Catalonia, lying in second place, behind Barcelona, from just across town in the Spanish capital, reside Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

Simeone’s impact on Atletico has been quick and spectacular, winning the Europa League in May in just his fifth month in charge, and has only lost five times in 28 matches that includes the unbeaten start to this season where an opening day 1-1 draw with Levante remains the only blotch on the copybook at the Calderon. Atletico even found time to ruthlessly dispose of Chelsea in the Super Cup in Monaco back in August and kick off their fresh Europa League campaign with the 3-0 defeat of Hapoel Tel-Aviv away in Israel. They have a look of a team who can make a convincing bid to end their wait of eighteen years for a Spanish title, the affectionately named Mattress Makers’ last La Liga coming in 1996 with the eccentric Argentinean Simeone in the midfield.

Now he is in the dugout at Madrid’s secondary team as a 42 year old, making a water-tight case to prove he can reflect as a manager the list of honours he acquired as the combative midfielder who gained infamy for his role in the petulant sending off of David Beckham in the World Cup of 1998. Simeone won every trophy available in Italy at the turn of the millennium with a very successful Lazio team as well as the UEFA Cup whilst at Inter Milan the year before he moved to Rome. This was all after his league and cup double with Atletico back in 1996 where he now finds himself as a fledgling manager after twice winning the Argentinean Primera Division; once with Estudiantes, once with River Plate.

Now the optimism is growing that he can actually form a decent challenge to the Real Madrid and Barcelona held hegemony of La Liga that has been split just once in the past decade and began to seriously dent the popularity of the league as a field of competitive action. Even in Radamel Falcao, the Colombian being fiercely tracked by Europe’s elite clubs, Simeone has his own answer to the respective one-man juggernauts of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Falcao hit 36 goals last season despite playing half of it in a side that struggled before Simeone made his mark, and has already notched ten goals in 6 games this term including that sublime hat-trick against Chelsea in Monaco that has made it a huge wonder to how Atletico, hit by serious financial turbulence, can hold on to the clinical 26 year old beyond the January transfer window.

Of course, that will be biggest hurdle for Simeone’s progressive unit, how they deal with the proposed departure of their main striker once their resolve, with interest coming from the team across town at the Bernabeau and European Champions Chelsea, comes under attack after Christmas. They will face a fight to keep hold of Falcao when it is considered the Calderon’s main scorer before him, Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, was sold to the tune of £36 million only to see that massive sum handed directly to the tax man. Atletico currently sit on a reported debt of 514 million euros, with 155 million euros owed in outstanding tax. It remains to be seen, with the Spanish government urging strict austerity in times of tough economic struggle, how long it will be before the Spanish economy draw in such financial discrepancy that is rife throughout the country’s flagship football competition and Falcao, no matter how vital to the Red and White’s cause, remains merely an expendable asset.

Simeone’s men continue to operate free of the tax-man for the time being though, and it would be wrong to portray them as a one man team however, they did triumph over Espanyol at the weekend without the presence of their Colombian hit-man, a goal from Raul Garcia sealing that narrow 1-0 win. The highly-rated Turkish play-maker Arda Turan schemes alongside Gabi Fernandez, Adrian Lopez and Juanfran in a fluid attacking line-up with the likes of Tiago Mendes and the South American centre-back pairing of Filipe and Diego Godin, providing an uncompromising, but not entirely solid, shield to young Chelsea loan goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois behind them; they have conceded 7 goals in 6 La Liga games so far, but have recorded five wins and one draws as a philosophy of solid resilience mixed with reckless abandon in attack has shone through (4-3 against Rayo Vallecano, 4-2 against Real Betis) in a true reflection of their eccentric young manager.

Simeone will have to wait until December to experience bigger tests of his title winning credentials with trips scheduled to Real Madrid and Barcelona, who will this weekend, as always, fight it out in the Nou Camp for the title of current favourites as the eventual destination for this year’s La Liga. Back in Madrid however, Atletico host big-spending Malaga with the chance to end this weekend’s proceedings top of the Spanish tree. As Mourinho’s disputes rumble on with Real languishing six points behind Atletico in sixth place, it could be that Diego Simeone becomes the true winner of this season’s first El Clasico.

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