Master, apprentice to meet in the final
MADRID - ReutersAtletico Madrid’s young coach Diego Simeone will test his progress against hugely experienced former boss Marcelo Bielsa when he takes on Athletic Bilbao in next month’s pupil-versus-master Europa League final. Atletico swept aside Valencia with a 5-2 aggregate semifinal victory on April 27 and will meet Bilbao in Bucharest on May 9, after Bielsa’s team edged out Portugal’s Sporting in a 4-3 thriller.
Former Argentina captain Simeone played the last 30 of his 106 international appearances during Bielsa’s six-year run at the helm between 1998 and 2004.
“We get to meet up again with Marcelo, with El Profe (the professor),” Simeone told reporters.
“We have a great affection for each other. It will be a nice final between friends but reaching the final was only the first objective. We want to win.”
Argentine Bielsa, nicknamed ‘El Loco’ (the madman), is well-known for his love of attacking football, his philosophical musings and as one of the influences on Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola’s style of play. Brought in to coach Bilbao at the beginning of the season, Bielsa has turned the north-coast club, who only field players of Basque origin, into one of the most exciting teams in Europe.
Simeone was appointed to replace Gregorio Manzano at Atletico in December and was treated as a returning hero for his part in helping the club to win a league and cup double as a player in 1996.
Although more pragmatic in its style of play, Atletico is the leading scorer in the Europa League this season with 30 goals and capable of the same kind of intensity as Bilbao on its day. The two teams are level on points in La Liga.