The primary time Diego Simeone confronted Chelsea as supervisor of Atletico Madrid, it earned him a increase of a number of million euro, additional years on his contract and a spot within the Champions League ultimate. Not one of the above can be on supply on Tuesday when Los Rojiblancos host the membership from Stamford Bridge, albeit within the Romanian capital of Bucharest as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
The increase and the brand new contract got here as a result of, as is his wont, Roman Abramovich noticed one thing shiny, cool and enticing and instantly tried to amass it. It was the 2013-14 season. Then, as now, Atleti had been making the strongest potential case to be Spanish champions. They’d simply knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League, registering Simeone’s first win over the Blaugrana as a coach (he needed to wait till earlier this season, almost seven years later, to realize his first Liga win over them), and the semifinal draw had stored Atleti and Real Madrid aside.
Jose Mourinho (most likely nonetheless “The Particular One” again then fairly than “The Particular As soon as”) was Chelsea’s head coach, and with two Champions League medals plus a Europa League win to his credit score, was a robust favorite to place this Argentinian supervisor again in his place.
Chelsea had coaxed Mourinho to return from Madrid, the place he’d handed Simeone, in his debut Atleti season, a few “Welcome to Spain” defeats (mixture 4-1) earlier than he responded with typical aggression by profitable the Copa del Rey ultimate towards Mourinho on the event of his final recreation in control of Madrid — and on the Santiago Bernabeu, for good measure. Three objectives, additional time, the foundations of soccer not solely stretched to breaking level by each side however — as two purple playing cards had been proven to Gabi and Cristiano Ronaldo — chewed up and spat out. Atleti packed the massive previous trophy of their equipment bag and spirited it off out of Madrid HQ.
This is able to be fairly totally different.
Mourinho’s group fought out a 0-0 draw at Atleti’s previous Estadio Vicente Calderon fortress (it is now mere rubble and a web site awaiting improvement, which is a pity) and with simply 53 minutes of the tie left in London had been main 1-0 — sarcastically sufficient through Atleti fanatic and one-time teenage captain Fernando Torres. However that Colchonero aspect was a unique breed from this one, and, it is nonetheless up for argument, so was Simeone.
They hit again for 1-1 earlier than half-time, added two extra — together with a massively delayed penalty that Diego Costa finally slotted house with ample glee — and certified for what can be the ultra-dramatic, uber-painful 2014 Champions League ultimate in Lisbon. In opposition to Madrid. You recognize what occurred subsequent.
From the second Abramovich had purchased Chelsea in 2003, he had coveted one thing Atleti had from birthright. It was to do with their title. Abramovich had all the time believed that, for business and tourism causes, any group that did not have already got the title of their metropolis in its official title — Glasgow Celtic, Manchester United, Barcelona, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain — ought to have that metropolis title as an addendum: Atletico de Madrid, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and so forth.
The Russian billionaire had used UBS bankers to evaluate a potential buy in Spain or Italy, together with Atleti themselves, earlier than deciding on Chelsea. He instantly created a working group to review two crucial concepts: promoting Stamford Bridge and transferring to Wembley, and renaming his new toy “London Chelsea.”
Acquisitiveness, versus the sack-replace-win-sack-replace cycle that has grow to be the profitable central motif of his possession, was excessive on Abramovich’s agenda in these early years. Wayne Rooney, as quickly as he started scoring for Everton, was his first want — “How a lot to we’ve to spend for that child?” he demanded to know from his right-hand man, Eugene Tenenbaum. Then it was Ronaldinho; Abramovich coveted the bewitching Brazilian participant from first sight and, famously, provided Mourinho, starting his first spell in cost, the Barcelona ahead as a welcome present. Mourinho rejected it, partly to point out the proprietor that he was in control of first-team issues, however his demand to amass Didier Drogba as a substitute did not prove too badly.
Abramovich, earlier than the purpose when Atleti knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League on the verge of their third ultimate since his 11-year funding within the membership of a number of hundred million euro, additionally had tried to rent Sir Alex Ferguson at the very least twice. So when Atleti, as soon as on his listing of potential buy targets, outplayed and beat the Blues within the final 50-something minutes of their 2014 tie, Abramovich needed to amass once more. He instructed his recruitment employees to start discovering out what it could take to tempt this fiery, inspirational, super-intense Argentinian supervisor to make Chelsea as strong and as irresistible as Atleti had been.
Contacts had been made with Simeone’s sister, Natalia, who represents him, and Chelsea planted the seed that he, and his assistant German “Mono” Burgos, would take over in summer time 2015. However Atleti pressed the Argentinian pair as tightly and intensely because the group, below Simeone, ever pressed opponents on the pitch. They promised extra money, double in actual fact, 5 years added to Simeone’s deal (till 2020) and a overview of the gamers Simeone needed to usher in or have tied to the mission through greater contracts. By March 2015, the battle was gained, briefly: Atleti had fought off Abramovich.
However seeds like that, as soon as planted, usually regrow. When Abramovich sacked Mourinho midway via the 2015-16 season, Chelsea nonetheless needed to know whether or not the Man in Black (which stays Simeone’s matchday wardrobe to today) would stroll the road from Spain’s capital to England’s. Guus Hiddink was put in short-term cost, however Chelsea invited Natalia again to London — all of which Simeone made scrupulously certain that his employers had been conscious of, as he’s a straight-shooter so far as honour and correct relationships with Atleti’s house owners are involved.
By that stage, the stakes had been totally different. Simeone had a really winnable tie with PSV Eindhoven within the Champions League spherical of 16 a few weeks away. And because it proved, he’d go on to take Atleti to the ultimate of that competitors once more — one thing that earned his membership €70 million from UEFA. He additionally had labored his option to second within the La Liga title chase, simply six factors behind Barcelona. (Atletico would finally end simply three factors off the highest.) Good cash had just lately been invested in Yannick Carrasco, Toby Alderweireld, Stefan Savic, Filipe Luis, Thomas Partey, Oliver Torres, Jackson Martinez and Augusto Fernandez. The lure of staying was robust.
Furthermore, attempt as he may, Simeone discovered that his English-language courses merely could not assist him grasp the language by which he’d crucially require to be fluent in to be able to each coach, however simply as importantly, transmit his beguiling, inspiring character if he had been to take cost at Chelsea and pursue Premier League and Champions League domination. He already knew what Gary Neville solely found at Valencia: work via a translator on the coaching floor and also you usually lose an excessive amount of of what made you enticing to the membership within the first place.
Simply as a information to how robust Chelsea’s, and particularly Abramovich’s, conviction was about Simeone and his strategies between late 2014 and once more in early 2016 — when it was lastly clear that they weren’t going to be married — look who was the following everlasting appointment after Mourinho after which on the finish of Hiddink’s caretaker stint. They went out and purchased his twin: Antonio Conte was nearly indistinguishable from Simeone in perspective, ideas, depth and profitable mentality. Name him the Italian Simeone, if you want; it is not removed from a bull’s-eye description.
As destiny needed it to be, Conte’s Chelsea and Simeone’s Atleti locked horns within the Champions League (the final time these two Euro pretenders met) simply months after the Italian supervisor gifted Abramovich his fifth Premier League title. Someway, remarkably, the battle was really helpful for each side.
At first look, Conte and Chelsea had been comprehensively the winners, knocking Los Colchoneros out on the final matchday of Group C in December 2017. However, and that is so sometimes Simeone, whereas Conte and Chelsea had been then being thrashed 4-1 by Barcelona within the spherical of 16, European season in tatters, Simeone & Co. dropped down into the Europa League and gained seven out of their subsequent 9 matches, together with eliminating Arsenal, and gained the event due to man of the match Antoine Griezmann’s brace within the 3-0 victory over Marseille within the ultimate.
And, now, right here they’re once more: Chelsea newly refurbished and considerably more durable to beat below Thomas Tuchel; Atleti main La Liga and Simeone just lately contractually renewed on what’s most likely the most important wage for any coach on the planet (round €20m a season) till 2024 — however the group struggling badly with accidents and a spate of COVID-19 absences.
What does the resumption of this lengthy, bumpy story of affection from Chelsea towards one in all Argentina’s nice soccer males have in retailer for us this time? Tuchel’s aspect, you may properly argue, begin with type and momentum. However this “house” recreation is being performed on the location of Simeone’s first trophy win in control of Atleti: Bucharest’s Nationwide Enviornment, the place, having taken cost of a moribund, characterless group at Christmas 2011, he impressed them to thump Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao 3-0 within the 2012 Europa League ultimate.
One thing comparable on Tuesday night would do properly for Simeone.