Atletico Madrid’s president thinks he knows why Diego Simeone is still at the club. It is because, in the words of Enrique Cerezo,
‘Simeone is the perfect coach for Atletico Madrid’.
There is a clear identity to Atletico and it comes from Simeone, whom Cerezo brought back as coach in December 2011, six years after he left as double-winning player and captain.
Atletico Madrid had changed managers 52 times in the previous 25 years. Four and a half years later Simeone is the longest-serving manager in Spain.
How much longer can it last?
‘There is no expiry date,’ says Cerezo. ‘He signed for another five years last summer and if both sides are happy — and I think they are — there is no need to think the situation is going to change.
‘When this contract ends we will ask him to renew and I think he will.
‘He was a great player for us. When the team were losing he would pick up the ball in the middle of the pitch, drive forward and get everyone out of their seat. Football is his life and his passion.’
He will be in his natural habitat on Wednesday night in the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Barcelona — the man in black prowling the touchline at the Vicente Calderon, looking like a Quentin Tarantino character in a Reservoir Dogs sequel.
Atleti are desperate to get back to the Champions League final to make amends for losing it in extra time to Real Madrid in 2014.
‘When the board went up for five minutes of injury time I was convinced we had done it,’ Enrique reflects. ‘You would never believe they would score in the last minute. But then you would never believe that same season we would go to the Nou Camp and get a draw on the last day to win the league.’
They beat Barcelona in the quarter-finals on their way to that Lisbon final with a 1-0 second-leg victory at the Vicente Calderon. The same result will do for them on Wednesday.
‘We want to get to the last four and annoy people in the Champions League just like we are doing in La Liga,’ says Simeone, who is proud to call his side a ‘nuisance team’ who gatecrash the big two’s private party.