Simeone promises to bring bite back
Diego Simeone (L) shakes hands with Atletico Madrid President Enrique Cerezo (C) and Director of Football Jose Luis Perez Caminero at Vicente Calderon stadium. REUTERS photoFormer Argentina captain Diego Simeone played to the gallery when he promised to put the bite back into Atletico Madrid at his presentation as their new coach yesterday.
The 41-year-old, who was an uncompromising defensive midfielder often described as having played with a knife between his teeth, has been brought in to replace Gregorio Manzano following the Spanish club’s erratic start to the campaign.
“I like an aggressive team,” Simeone told a packed news conference at the Calderon. “I want to see a team that is strong, committed and quick on the break.
“These are things which Atletico fans have always liked, it helps them identify with and love this shirt.”
With his close-cropped hair and stubbled chin, Simeone looked every inch the grizzled warrior as he spoke, striking a strong contrast with his predecessor Manzano, a softly-spoken 55-year-old nicknamed ‘the professor’.
Manzano’s six months in charge came to an end when Atletico were knocked out of the King’s Cup by third-tier Albacete last week, and they lie 10th in La Liga.
Simeone is hugely popular at the Calderon, where he returns after two stints as a player.
In his first spell he helped the side to a league and King’s Cup double back in 1996 and as he spoke on Tuesday a huge queue of fans waited outside the stadium to try and grab a glimpse of the Argentine.
“I always had it as an objective to return to Atletico as coach,” Simeone said.
“I’m going to bring the work ethic and enthusiasm I have always had. The responsibility is enormous but it doesn’t scare me. It excites me. I have always risen to challenges and this is just one more.”
Simeone has only been in Spain one day, having quit his post at Argentina’s Racing Club last week, and preferred to avoid specifics when asked about future objectives.
“Atletico always demands the very best, but all I am thinking about is Malaga,” he said Referring to their next match when La Liga resumes on Jan. 7. “Anything else is fantasy. I live for reality.”
Simeone is the 10th coach to take the helm at Atletico since the team returned to the top flight under Luis Aragones in 2002. Atletico won the Europa League and European Super Cup 18 months ago, its first taste of silverware in 14 years, but instability continues to blight the club.
Simeone will lead Atletico against another former club Lazio in the Europa League last-32 stage.