Atletico Madrid’s charge towards the top of La Liga table was not a fluke by any means. The capital city club have deservedly earned their place up there next to Barcelona and Real Madrid in the table but after three losses last week in Copa Del Rey and La Liga against Real Madrid and Almeria respectively, can Diego Simeone’s men stand up again and continue to fight for La Liga title?
There is no doubt that Atletico’s players are talented enough to be able to match any team on their day, though the inexperience of the players and the manager himself could cost them dearly. Big teams generally win because they play well and take the match to their opponents; they dominate and deservedly win games. Not only that, but a big team is the one that is able to show character on the pitch by grabbing tough wins even when not playing well. For instance, Real Madrid forced a draw in Bilbao’s San Mames a few weeks ago despite being dominated throughout the match and going one man down later. Moreover, big teams bounce back after a loss, while small clubs are fragile as once they start losing their great form disappears and the magic goes away.
Diego Simeone has no doubt proved himself as one of the best coaches around this season but the real test comes this February, with two competitions on the line, the Argentine still has proved nothing. He needs to show that he is able to cope under pressure, Copa Del Rey is a lost cause but he has no excuses in the Champions League. Atletico’s opponents Milan are having a terrible season and despite their Champions League image, they should be within Atletico’s reach. Diego Simeone has managed to transmit his philosophy to his players and they all by now have had a great grip of it while Clarence Seedorf just joined Milan a few weeks ago and he still has a lot of issues to address starting from the shambolic back-line to the childish Mario Balotelli. This is a tie Atletico have no other option but to win if they are to earn the respect and admiration of the football world. If Atletico make it into the quarter-finals and bounce back in La Liga then FIFA have no excuses at all to exclude Diego Simeone from the shortlist for the best manager in 2014. ‘FIFA’s 2013 Coach of the Year’ saw the likes of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger on the list despite their failure to win any competition, this time Simeone gets another chance and it all depends on his final fourth months of the season.
While Real Madrid and Barcelona spent big on the likes of Neymar, Gareth Bale, Isco and others, Atletico sold their best player yet they are performing even better than they were in the previous season and they are still joint-top in the league but things might start go downwards for them unless they show that ‘big team’ character and react quickly. Los Colchoneros have young stars at the moment and it may seem likely that their prices in the market will increase, though Atletico may not be poised to sell next summer, unlike the trend they’ve been following. On the administrative side, the club is healthier than before, the stadium is selling out, the club’s official shop is generating more revenue than previous seasons while sponsorship deals are offering lucrative deals. The management has all the financial means to keep the players but the players will only want to stay if they feel that Atletico can challenge for the title without necessarily winning it this season.
Atletico are planning to build their own stadium, a 200 million Euro project that will see the light two years from now. This will definitely give the club a major financial boost. In addition, their progress in the Champions League has given them an extra push and they are most likely to reach the competition the season after that. They have no cemented themselves as one of the four financially stable teams in Spain and it is highly likely that they will continue to be present at the top for the foreseeable future.
Atletico deserve to be congratulated for what they have achieved so far, but the road is still long and only time will tell if they can break the Spanish monopoly and become a new powerhouse in the Spanish game.