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Thursday 8 December 2016

Simeone doing work which is to be admired

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone is pictured during the Champions League quarter-final win over Barcelona on Wednesday Photo: Reuters
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone is pictured during the Champions League quarter-final win over Barcelona on Wednesday Photo: Reuters

The more I see of Diego Simeone, the more I like him. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that his achievements at Atletico Madrid make him the most impressive manager in the game at the moment.

When you think about what he has done, the circumstances he has done it in and the consistency he has managed while his best players take flight every summer, you might make some even bigger claims about where he stands in the rolling history of the game.

Pitched against a huge neighbour with massive resources and another dozen clubs capable of making Atletico an offer they can't refuse, he has steered his club into a remarkable position and if cynicism sometimes fills in the gaps, I don't have a problem with that.

The beauty of Simeone's work is it's simplicity. It never wavers, never changes and always leans on the basics of the game.

Fundamental

Atletico are a living embodiment of the fundamental rule which says that you must make the best use of the ball when you have it and your best effort to get it back when you don't.

In all the talk about tactics, I never hear anyone speaking about this principle but Simeone understands it well and his players too. It is as plain as night and day when coach and team are on message.

Just look at Louis van Gaal. While Simeone impressed everyone by dumping Barcelona out of the Champions League, the Dutchman hung on for dear life against West Ham.

I'm always loathe to talk about luck when a man has a CV like van Gaal's but he has been lucky, there is no doubt about that.

He's lucky to be still in a job and lucky that Ed Woodward's position could be on the line if van Gaal fails, a scenario which would explain why he hasn't been sacked.

Manchester United beat West Ham and have their eyes fixed on Wembley as if an FA Cup final win can somehow make everything right.

It won't. Marcus Rashford won't either even though he's clearly a talented young lad.

I was waiting for van Gaal to take credit for the Rashford goal and it wasn't long before he explained that the lad can take criticism and respond well.

This was van Gaal's way of telling everyone that his fine management of Rashford was the main reason he scored; nothing to do with his God-given skill with a football.

Put him in the right place on the pitch and he might score but he won't playing at full-back are any of the other imaginative ideas van Gaal has for his players.

At this stage, I wonder why van Gaal is still there. Even he must see how far behind he is in the Premier League and a team like Atletico in the Champions League, never mind Bayren Munich or Real Madrid.

I know Simeone has been named as a possible recruit for Manchester United but I think he is happy where he is, dogged fighting the odds and winning.

I know Liam Brady has a view about the way Atletico play which caused a bit of a skirmish in midweek. He would pick the Barca philosophy every time.

I know where he's coming from but I see tremendous nobility in what Simeone has been doing.

He has developed footballers into warriors. They will fight for him and the club and it's not as if they are pluggers.

There's a reason why clubs queue every summer to offer big money for players he develops.

I'm not sure he would want the trappings of a billion pound club. Sometimes a man is made for the place he works.

I think he is in it for the long haul and trying to build a dynasty. That is to be admired.

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