El Cholo's dark arts has defined an era yet his chaotic attempt to evolve could write history for Atletico
Atletico Madrid sit fourth in the La Liga table|
‘Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment. Would you capture it, or just let it slip?’
The funny thing about the words above is the fact that it describes a moment that takes place in everyone’s life, whether famous or not, rich or poor, or whatever their background. It’s a moment they’ve been waiting their entire lives for and thus “would you capture it or just let it slip?” and it’s the question on everyone’s mind. For Eminem, the moment was the song and that moment also happens to be the singer at the peak of his absolute powers.
Some may, and could, argue that there isn’t just one peak for a career and those people may be right but in that particular moment, he had nothing, and yet everything, to lose. It’s about as honest as one can get about going for broke, shooting for the stars, and not thinking about the consequences, no matter how dire they may be. The entire song itself is about the futility of life and how going for broke might not be the worst thing in the world, especially when you’ve lost everything.
The problem here is the fact that for Atletico Madrid, their life is just beginning or at least just properly beginning because for the last ten years they’ve been fast asleep. Like a little baby child, occasionally doing something worth video-tapping before then tapping out and simply enjoying the ride as the world rocks them back to sleep. Diego Simeone was, often, the person holding the crib up and keeping things steady as the world around them crashed, burned, and even imploded.
Now the baby has been injected with some sort of miracle serum and turned into a giant human being overnight, without knowing how to really deal with everything. Because somehow thanks to a shocking turn of events, Atletico Madrid walked into the 2021/22 season with arguably the best squad in the Spanish top flight. And yet, 16 odd games into the season and the Los Rojiblancos are yet to showcase that with them opting to take their fans on a wild, absolutely intense emotional rollercoaster.
It’s been a journey and a half, and the fact that we’re already into December hasn’t hit anyone yet because of how chaotic it all has been. Even with that star-studded squad, the reigning La Liga champs sit in fifth and are ten points off first place with Real Madrid, shockingly, sitting at the top of the league table. Sevilla are eight points behind them with Real Betis, Real Sociedad, and then Diego Simeone’s men in that order.
The gap reduces the further down we go with Rayo Vallecano two points behind, Barcelona four behind and so on. Somehow even that doesn't matter because while Los Rojiblancos have the fire-power to annihilate teams at will, they're struggling to even boop them. They did absolutely blow Barcelona out of the water but in the times we live in, every team beats Barcelona and thus it doesn’t count. That is especially when the former shock challengers for the title in Real Sociedad, Levante, and Valencia all held Atleti to stunning draws.
Mallorca took it one step further and beat them but yet, it’s the chaotic and rollercoaster nature of their season that has so many fans energized and excited for the future. Why? Because Atletico Madrid are on the brink of something great, with them teetering on a knife’s edge right now and this has been coming for more than a while. The evolution started years ago with them signing and bringing in not gritty, aggressive players but the more fluid, vibey footballers that have the potential to make football fun.
Joao Felix, Thomas Lemar, Yannick Carrasco and even the Luis Suarez signing about 18 months ago defines Atletico’s ambition. The fact that somehow El Cholo has managed to not just assimilate but get these players to click together has been even more shocking and a clear indicator of his managerial talents. Not only that, they then went and added Rodrigo de Paul and Antoine Griezmann before the start of this season, flexing their financial and superclub muscles for all to see.
This was always the way to go, evolve into something fierce just as the world catches up and adapts to the change before doing it again. It’s the hardest thing for a manager and a football team to do because change and evolution like anything else is hard and that is doubly so in football. Sure, FIFA makes it look very easy especially when you can transform a fourth-tier English club into a Champions League winner within three seasons, but this is real life.
Here, it takes at least four to six months, sometimes longer, for a player to adjust to his new environment, to a new team, and especially to new tactics. But if you want to completely change the team and push them into a new future, it has to be done over time and over the course of several transfer windows, which is exactly what has happened. Yet, over those years, Simeone has had to deal with all sorts of issues but this here just happens to be his greatest challenge.
“People say you get tired of winning: that’s false. Everyone wants to win, to lift trophies, but for that to happen there are loads of things that have to happen first”
– Mario Hermoso.
To take a team who are very very well known to be the hardest, toughest, and possibly the worst team to play against and turn them into an entity that can destroy you six ways to Sunday. Teething problems, like the back-to-back defeats against Liverpool or the five wins in their last ten league games ahead of a Madrid derby or their horrendous Champions League performances, are part and parcel of that but look back at the Atletico teams of yesteryear and the change is evident.
Yet, while there’s clear potential for an eruption of incredible propositions, the possibility that all this could go horribly wrong is most definitely up there alongside the good and that’s bound to happen. Change is tough but changing your entire personality to become something else is even harder especially when that has been drilled into you over the course of a decade.
Juventus tried to change and are now in financial turmoil, Manchester City tried and it took them years to find their dream while Borussia Dortmund have found their niche and are refusing to change. But that's exactly where Simeone can cut his teeth again and that there is what we’re all waiting for. There’s no denying that El Cholo is arguably the best manager in Spain right now and an Atleti legend, but the opportunity to show his managerial talent beyond that is waiting right around the corner.
I'm being flippant, of course, but it's a serious issue too. Who are Atletico? If they're a mega club in a fancy new stadium with big money signings they lose their essence. It doesn't suit them and it definitely doesn't suit Simeone, who doesn't value winning without suffering— Andy West (@andywest01) December 7, 2021
The chance to become the first manager since Javier Clemente to win back-to-back La Liga titles with a club that wasn’t Real Madrid or Barcelona is right there. Clemente did with Athletic Bilbao, winning the 1982/93 and 1983/84 seasons, with no other manager doing it since then with a club that was not either of the two super Spanish giants. Rafael Benitez came close, winning one either side of Real Madrid’s 2002/03 title-winning season, but beyond that nothing.
Hell, nobody has even come close to lifting a league title with Simeone’s Atletico winning the only titles a club not Real Madrid or Barcelona have won in 18 years. The statistic is a little indicative of why people tend to put down La Liga but now comes the chance to do more, the chance to establish himself as beyond just an Atletico Madrid legend. It’s all there, with the cards practically laid out on the table for El Cholo.
The team is right there waiting, the pieces are standing wondering what their manager has in mind and the players, well the players are itching for that chance to set their names, legacies, and achievements in stone. Everyone is as well because they’re getting sick of seeing two teams dominate with a lucky third sometimes popping up. This is his chance and thanks to a global pandemic, Atletico Madrid are in the eye of a lovely looking storm.
The question is, you have one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted and so much more.
“Would you capture it? Or just let it slip?”