by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (April 40th 2014)
Atlético de Madrid’s 3-1 demolition of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tonight ensured an all-Madrid final. Yesterday, Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid demolished Pep Guardiola’s Tiki-Taka 4-0 in München and 5-0 on aggregate. It’s hard to remember that just a year ago largely the same squad – Javi Martínez was the only major addition to Jupp Heynckes’ treble winners. Last year German football came of age with the all German Champion’s League Final, but a year is a long time in football. The Spanish – Madrid actually – are back with a vengeance.
Guardiola was handed a football lesson by Ancelotti last night and his nemesis José Mourinho got one tonight. The bus had been parked at the Vicente Calderón last week, but a 0-0 draw was far from a disaster as Diego Simeone knew. Chelsea not only had to score, they had to prevent Atlético from doing so and if they couldn’t they would have to attack and be more vulnerable themselves – exactly as Simeone planned.
The baton was passed tonight to a talented young coach – one who already boasts trophies on his résumé. Quite how Simeone passed under English radar for so long while building a sterling reputation is one of football’s great mysteries, but nobody underestimates El Cholo in Spain. Lacking the spending power and the depth of the squads of Barçelona and Real Madrid and having been forced to sell Radamel Falcao – it is often forgotten that while learning his trade in Argentina Simeone worked with a young Falcao.
Despite losing the services in recent years of Fernando Torres, Sergio Agüero, Diego Forlán and Radamel Falcao for small fortunes Atlético somehow remain competitive and Simeone remains at the helm – he is just 44. His team leads La Liga by 4 points with just three matches remaining _ real are a further two points adrift, although Ancelotti bagged the first silverware on offer, winning the Copa del Rey at Mestalla against Barçelona.
Atlético were beaten in the semi-final by the eventual winners. If results go their way this weekend only mathematics could prevent them claiming the title for the first time since Simeone was part of the 1995-96 double-winning Atlético team. He won plenty of trophies as a player along with 106 caps for Argentina.
He has a mixed record as a coach in Argentina, including titles before coming into his own in Madrid. He has already delivered the Europa League title, UEFA Super-cup and Copa del Rey and in his third year at the club has the opportunity to win La Liga and the Champion’s League.
He has already outwitted former Real Madrid coach José Mourinho, but Ancelotti poses a very different challenge and one the young Argentine will be relishing as the former Chelsea coach who won the double in his first season at Stamford Bridge denied El Cholo the chance of a treble.
His opponent at the Stadium of Light in Lisbon on May 24th has already won the Champion’s League with AC Milan as well as League titles in Italy, England and France. He is the only double-winner in English football not to win the Manager of the Year Award. It promises to be a fascinating battle of wits for Lisbon to savour. Reports of the demise of Spanish football have once again proved greatly exaggerated.