Managing in the English Premier League doesn’t require technical mastery; nor does it demand an in-depth knowledge of the innovative 3-5-2 or the False 9 formations.
On certain occasions, a manager enters the fray already a bona fide tactical genius, embodying not only the unique character, but also the technical know-how to effectively change a clubs fortunes.
Historically, such personnel to grace the English game include Sir Alex Ferguson with Manchester United, Bob Paisley with Liverpool and Brian Clough with Derby County and later, Nottingham Forest.
Nowadays it is the Mourinho’s, Wenger’s and Ancelloti’s that are making slightly different but equally impressive waves as their Great British counterparts; embellishing the already beautiful game from afar before expressing a hungered desire to move to – and succeed in – England’s top tier; and often doing so with recognisable success.
So when Diego Simeone last week decided not to add himself to the illustrious group of foreign commanders to join the Premier League, a few puzzled expressions were left etched onto the faces of many involved in football.
Probably none more-so than Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini, who would have almost certainly been given his marching orders; had Simeone opted to swap Spain for much wetter English climates.
The Argentine instead ended speculation of his departure from Atletico Madrid by signing a new five-year deal with the club, promising his services until at least 2020.
Last season saw the former central midfielder add a Champions League final and La Liga title to his impressive managerial resume; the latter achievement being the first trophy since 1996 for the Vicente Calderón trophy cabinet.
Since also winning the Super Cup, Copa Del Rey and UEFA Europa League during his brief managerial tenure, it comes of no surprise why all involved with Atletico Madrid responded almost euphorically to the news of the contract extension.
The hashtag #Simeone2020 soon began circulating social media, whilst also featuring as a discount code on Madrid’s official website, halving the ticket price for next weekends home fixture with David Moyes’ Real Sociedad.
A short video released at the time of the new contract portrayed Simeone as messianic and legendary; conveying not only the 20 important traits he has as a manager, but also the same 20 he is willing to offer the current La Liga champions for the next half-decade.
— Atleti English (@atletienglish) March 24, 2015
The renewal was also crowned with a public message from the man of the moment, whereby the growth and development of Atleti was expressed as paramount to his decision to remain.
I’ve made a decision to stay where I am, and decisions are sometimes difficult to make in life. Fortunately, I’ve been able to make this decision, as I see a club that is moving forward, I see eagerness to grow and people willing to collaborate
As Atletico Madrid progressively – and rather daringly – build their club around one man, Manchester City, amongst others, are left panic-stricken, wondering where to turn in the search for their next savior.
Those at the Etihad exemplified their distaste at Simeone’s snub by immediately declaring themselves uninterested in the Argentines services from the off; a rather questionable statement according to Spanish presenter and journalist Guillem Balague.
Possibly the seeming lack of interest is a blessing in disguise for, not only Simeone in his period of growth, but also Manchester City – and any other football club for that matter.
Whilst Simeone has become arguably the most wanted manager in world football, there is reasonable doubt whether the energetic ‘El Cholo’ would be up to dealing with the trials and tribulations often experienced in England’s top league.
Since his managerial career took off nearly ten years ago he has certainly impressed with a long list of trophies and accolades, including two consecutive La Liga Coach of the Year awards and a 2014 Ballon D’or nomination. But his resounding achievements have somewhat served to hide his lesser-known managerial failings.
In the early years Simeone transitioned himself from player to manager of Racing Club in the Argentine Primera División, and in doing so was unknowingly setting an early precedent for the inconsistencies to follow.
The former Argentina captain managed five clubs in as many years before joining Madrid in 2011, and experienced the joys of winning titles in almost every one of those appointments, including a monumental Argentinian Apertura title with Estudiantes de La Plata in late 2006; their first league title in 23 years.
A trend did however begin to emerge for Simeone, who frequently fled managerial posts in light of his own negligence at their respective helms.
This began, incidentally, with the accolade achieved at Estudiantes de La Plata; a title which was to be will-fully surrendered the following year by a mediocre sixth place finish. Shortly after the season’s finale, the Argentine announced his voluntary departure from the club.
An even more profound ‘first year success followed by second year demise’ was to befall Simeone at his next venture with River Plate. The developing coach in his debut season steered them to a 2008 Clausera league title before once again resigning the following season, leaving them quite surprisingly, at the foot of the division.
Whilst Simeone may have quelled any accusations of disloyalty with his more recent contractual dealings, the jury is also still out on his decision making abilities in key moments; a problem most notable in the 2014 Champions League Final.
Although Atletico were the dominant force for the majority of the match in Lisbon, their Madrid rivals would eventually claim victory on the night; a night that many skeptics argue could have gone differently had Atleti’s starting line-up been more accommodating of the well documented injury to star man, Diego Costa.
Starting the now-Chelsea FC player was later regretted by Simeone, who after just eight minutes was forced to use one of his three substitutions to replace the hamstrung striker; an option that would surely have bolstered his teams chances had it been useable in the extra-time stages of the compelling fixture.
Possible inexperience but probable ignorance lead not only to the loss of a more-than-achievable European title for Simeone, but also the downfall of a select few Argentine clubs who gave him snippets of victory and his first break in management. Such failings have surprisingly gone under the radar amongst many in world football.
Fast-forward to present day and the trusted Simeone and his Madrid side sit in fourth place in La Liga, nine points off leaders Barcelona with 10 games left to play.
With a second consecutive league title all-but out of the question for Atletico, they do still have the Champions League quarter final to keep alive any hopes of silverware this season; an achievement that may have significantly impacted Simeone’s decision to extend his post, had the lottery of their penalty shootout with Bayer Leverkusen gone instead in favour of the Germans in the previous round.
The desire for many to see Simeone take charge of a somewhat under-achieving Manchester City team arguably could have had dire repercussions for the glowing reputation of the Argentine, of which was once tainted with a ‘run when the going gets tough’ mentality.
Whilst it may be an unwelcome resolution by certain blue regions of Manchester and Paris, the choice to remain represents a certain step in the right direction for the 44 year-old boss, who will now begin to grow alongside his clubs own aspirations.
The option to stay in Spain, amidst obvious external offers, is still a testament to the triumphs of the current Madrid boss, who has bought himself some much-need time to right his previous wrongs in the game.
It seems paramount at this time for one of the true characters of the game to learn valuable lessons about governance and loyalty; something that wouldn’t be possible with yet another unprecedented move away.