The Spanish top flight has been a two-horse race between Barcelona and Real Madrid for the past 10 years, with the last team to challenge them being Rafael Benitez’s Valencia back in 2004. During this period, finishing third was deemed as a massive achievement, but this season Atletico Madrid managed to achieve the impossible.
Atletico have gone from being the forgotten club to the next big thing. After Gregorio Manzano was sacked in December 2011, fan favourite Diego Simeone was introduced as manager. Under his reign, Atletico were reformed both tactically and mentally, and with very few signings he was able to transform the team completely.
A key part of Simeone’s plan at Atletico was to stick with what he had. Between the transfer window before Simeone took over and the 2013-14 winter transfer period, Los Rojiblancos had accumulated a positive balance of around €69 million from transfers alone.
At a time when billionaire owners are dominating football, this is an absolutely unbelievable feat. Simeone motivated his players, built a strong team with an attacking mentality and constructed a group of players who takes the game to their opposition while giving them no time on the ball.
The Argentine’s emergence as manager has undoubtedly been the main story of Atletico’s rise. Since Simeone took over, the Madrid outfit have won the Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup, the Copa del Rey and this season, they ended Barcelona’s and Madrid’s reign of La Liga.
This campaign, Atletico also made it to the final of the Champions League in which they cruelly lost to Real Madrid, after managing to get through the group stages unbeaten.
At the moment, Atletico are living in somewhat of a golden age with Simeone at the helm. Having won four trophies in just two season, the future of the club looks very promising. Atletico will definitely be the team to watch next season.