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Win over United proves Simeone is still one of the world's best

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20th March, 2022

Atlético Madrid’s second-half performance against Manchester United summed up what Diego Simeone has implemented into them in the past 11 years.

They were strong-willed, tough, resolute, and compact. They used the dark arts effectively and frustrated Manchester United.

This was just another example of Simeone’s brilliance. His teams do not play prettily but they play cleverly and his intelligent man-management skills make him one of the top managers in the world.

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A Simeone side plays exactly how the Argentine did in his professional career. ‘El Cholo’ was a leader in midfield who had incredible stamina and strength.

Simeone introduced his pragmatic tactics to the red-and-white half of Madrid because of financial troubles and an ageing squad when he took over.

His team were not the best, so his style of play had to be. This worked, and Atleti began to over-perform and slowly their budget and talent increased, culminating in a La Liga title in the 2013-14 season.

In the summer of 2021, Simeone switched from his hard-to-break-down 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 formation.

Diego Simeone

(Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

This 3-5-2 system contains wing backs such as Renan Lodi and Marcos Llorente, who bomb down the flanks and cross the ball in regularly for Luis Suarez and Joāo Félix.

This is how they got their goal at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in the first leg.

So why did Simeone switch formations? Why did he do this after years of success?


As mentioned previously, Simeone took a struggling side to the top of Spanish football, in spite of the free-spending Real Madrid and Barcelona to compete with.

Well, it soon became apparent that Simeone’s football – where his team sat back – was an effective way to garner points in La Liga and did well at defending the traditional Spanish ‘tiki-taka.’

Many teams who were promoted from the Spanish Segunda Division copied Simeone and used this as way of staying up in the Spanish top flight. Eleven teams regularly used the 4-4-2 last season in La Liga.


Soon, teams lower in the table were playing against Atleti (one of the best in Spain) how Atleti played against higher-ranked opposition.

Not one for tinkering, Simeone had to adapt. He did and while Atlético are 15 points off leaders and arch-rivals Real in the league, they are, after all, in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, among Europe’s greatest.

Atlético’s next game in the Champions League is against many people’s favourites, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Guardiola’s ideologies are exactly the ones Simeone had to defeat and did defeat. It should be a fascinating game when the two match up on April 5 at the Etihad Stadium and then again eight days later in Madrid.


It is expected that Manchester City will progress and then meet Chelsea or Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

It will be Diego Simeone’s most important and tough game of the season, but history suggests his team could produce an upset and go further than the team sheets would suggest.