Atletico Madrid are on the verge of winning their first ever Champions League trophy. An outsider at the start of the season, Los Rojiblancos have got the better of Barcelona and Chelsea on their way to the final in Lisbon.
Later on Saturday, the Spanish champions will take on fellow La Liga and city-rivals Real Madrid in the final of Europe’s premier club competition. Atletico will probably be the underdogs, but so they were in the race for the league title in Spain - and they won it.
Atletico now have a winning mentality and a newfound belief that they can compete against anyone. It was that confidence and self-conviction that saw them humiliate Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of their semi-final tie.
Coach Diego Simeone has been attributed as the man to have changed the entire outlook of Atletico. A former player for the Madrid outfit, the 44-year-old was appointed the club’s coach in December 2011.
Less than five months later he led them to Europa League success. Then came the UEFA Super Cup triumph, then the Copa del Rey in 2013 and La Liga in 2014. And now, it is time for the Argentine to guide Atletico to Champions League glory.
Midfielder Tiago, who played for Chelsea during the 2004-05 season, has hailed Simeone and has underlined just how crucial he has been in transforming a club that had been perennial underachievers.
‘For us, for all the club, he is like a God’, Sky Sports quotes the 33-year-old as saying. ‘He arrived at the club and he changed everything. What he says to us comes true and we would follow him. If he asked us to go and jump off a bridge, we would jump’.
Tiago’s words echo what many of the players who have played under current Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho have said over the years. Simeone appears to have that same galvanising effect and bring that winning mentality to his players.
Is Simeone the new Mourinho?