El Centrocampista

Atletico: A salute to the champions

Atletico Madrid champions

18 years since they last won the title, 10 years since anyone other than Real Madrid or Barcelona had won the league. It all ended on Saturday evening.

Atletico had done it. The final whistle was blown after 93 minutes of tense, nerve-jangling football at the Camp Nou. Tears of joy from the 500-plus Atletico support and that of captain Gabi, showed just how much the title triumph meant.

Yet when Alexis gave Barca the half-time lead at the Camp Nou, everyone could have been forgiven for thinking, typical Atleti. Even more so that Diego Costa pulled up with a recurrence of his hamstring injury and Arda Turan also had to depart before the interval. In true Atleti fashion, they came out for the second period and swarmed all over Barca like a hunter going after his prey. The pressure paid off. After Villa smacked the post, Diego Godin rose highest to meet Gabi’s corner heading it downward past a helpless Pinto.

It is a fantastic achievement for the club, who have been said to have been the Robin Hood of football, breaking the 10-year dominance of the big two. It is an even bigger credit to them that they have also kept going despite getting to the Champions League final, having a smaller squad than Real Madrid or Barca and also after having been forced to sell last year’s top scorer Falcao to Monaco, to aid the club’s mountain of debt.

That sale in the summer has allowed Diego Costa to have the best season of his career and his goals have been a big factor in keeping Atleti at the top of the table and consequently staying there. The Brazilian born Costa has gone from journeyman to league-winning striker in the space of two seasons with 27 goals netted this term, possibly the best of the lot being the overhead kick in the 7-0 rout of Getafe.

However despite the striker getting most of the plaudits, Atletico it would be folly to brand them a ‘one man team’ and the rest of the team must be given a huge amount of credit, especially its spine. Starting with the ‘Zamora’ winning Courtois in goal, continuing with the formidable defensive pairing of Miranda and Godin, and not forgetting the captain and heartbeat of the side Gabi, who has been magnificent along with homegrown Koke.

There success has come about as a result of a gigantic team effort. No Galacticos, just pure hard work.

In fact the biggest star is probably the miracle-working coach Simeone.

It’s often said a team mirrors the personality of their coach and there is no better proof of that theory than this one. Simeone has totally transformed a team and a club of perennial underachievers in a league-winning sense, to champions. Of course, the last time Atleti won the title Simeone was starring in the midfield but now he has his team working as a cohesive unit and all the members of his squad pulling in the one direction. The main asset of Simeone’s is his persona, he gives players that extra yard and has them brimming with self-belief and confidence.

He’s now done the job of the century winning the title as coach and every single iota of praise that comes his way and that of his warrior-like squad is merited, it’s the classic rags beating the riches story and a massive victory for coaching over spending.

Untill Saturday atleast, Madrid is red and white.

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