Atletico Madrid win La Liga – and rightly so

Atletico Madrid win La Liga – and rightly so

atletico bus parade by sid loweFor one dreadful moment I thought the table would lie. With it would go the reliability of that saying we are all guilty of using. The table can’t lie, can it?

Well the La Liga one would have done had Barcelona finished top. They have been the third best team in the league this season. They came within one – wrongly as it turned out – disallowed Lionel Messi goal of beating Ateltico Madrid 2-1 and being crowned La Liga champions.
 

Justice was done and seen to be done when Atletico Madrid won La Liga.

Yes, video technology would have proved that when Messi received the ball in an offside position, it had last come off an Atletico player, not one of his own. So this goal should have stood.

But not even I would deny that, from the first whistle to the last, only Atletico deserved to get a result from that match. A draw was enough for them to win La Liga and, despite losing two of their best players to injury before the game was half an hour long; they did just that.

They did so because manager Diego Simeone has instilled a team spirit akin to the one Barça had when Pep Guardiola marshalled his troops. Atletico won La Liga because the manager had them playing to their strengths. Again, what Barça did under Guardiola.

 

Atletico Madrid’s win is a triumph for good old fashioned team togetherness and organisation.

The Atletico players went into the dressing room at half time trailing to a wonder goal and with a depleted team.

Simeone reflected: “At half-time, I told them that we had played well. Despite the injuries, which were no minor issue, and the fact that we had been forced to make two changes after 25 minutes, I told them that they were fine. The second half was extraordinary.

“When opponents congratulate you and tell you that you deserve it, it makes it even more special. I would say this means something for everyone; it means that you can win in different ways. It’s always the player’s characteristics that define how you play and we have won in a different way to Madrid or Barcelona.” simeone

Simeone concluded: “This shows that there is more than one way to win.”

And their success was achieved on a budget smaller than the combined wealth of Messi and Ronaldo.

It has also provided just what those who run FC Barcelona required. A wake up call from their post Pep slumber.

The Barcelona fans knew the best team had won La Liga. So often the supporters of a losing side beat a hasty retreat for the exit doors. Not at Camp Nou. The home fans gave Atletico a standing ovation. And rightly so.

Simeone said of that gesture: “It’s one of the loveliest things that you can experience in football. The applause rounded off the season wonderfully.”

Should Atletico Madrid go on to beat their city neighbours in the Champions League final (I hope they do, but fear they will not); then that would also send a message to those who believe splashing the cash on individual footballers is all you have to do to win trophies.
 

The clubs who favour the expensive ‘route one’ approach to team building should learn a lesson from the manager of Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone was once vilified in England. He was the Argentinian player who provoked a young, foolish David Beckham to retaliate and be sent off in a World Cup.

Now Simeone is being celebrated around the world as a manager who has broken the stranglehold Barcelona and Real Madrid had on the Spanish league.

The last man to do so was Rafa Benitez when he led Valencia to title honours in 2004. It took ten years for another club to put the big boys in their place.

I have supported FC Barcelona since I got soaked watching them beaten 5-1 at Malaga at the end of 2003. That was before the days of Pep Guardiola. Before multiple league titles, Champions League glory and the perfect passing football game that Guardiola developed at Camp Nou.

“Tika taka” they call it. My Real Madrid supporting Spanish friend, Luis, says such football is boring. He says Barcelona have for years sent him off to sleep with their obsession with passing. I guess he’d rather watch Real Madrid miss out on a league title that was laid on a plate for them. Again!

To my mind the FC Barcelona of Pep Guardiola played beautiful football. The game as it should be played. A passing game. But that has gone. For the moment, at least. On Saturday Barcelona played with all the guile of am English League 1 club.

While I am angry at the outgoing manager of FC Barcelona, and those who run the club, for the abject season they have had; I was ultimately very relieved on Saturday night.

The table doesn’t lie. Thank the Lord!

Watch three minutes of match highlights here

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