Diego Simeone may now be immortal in the eyes of Atleti fans – and could well manage to do an astoundingly impressive double should he guide his side to the Champions League title in Lisbon – but the players deserve just as much credit as the enigmatic coach.
Some people will try and tell you that we have not seen a manger burst onto the scene like this since Jose Mourinho – yet they would be wrong.
Simeone has not simply ‘burst onto the scene’ this year by winning the Liga, he has cultivated a very good side over the last three years since taking the reins at the Vicente Calderon and now has what is close to a finished article in terms of his side.
All through the team, the players want to win for themselves, but also for their manager. You can see the heart and soul of the side so clearly and that, along with their underdog tag and will to win is what has won them many fans this season.
Misguided people may have called Liverpool the ‘people’s choice’ for the Premier League (and how quickly they were shot down) but the real people’s champion this season has been the lesser known side from Madrid.
Having managed to get the point needed at the Camp Nou, Atleti were victorious and pipped Barcelona to the league – and cries of ‘Atleti, Atleti’ were heard around the Camp Nou upon the final whistle.
Now given the fact that Barcelona had oh so generously allowed the travelling side to have less than 500 tickets – out of 98,000 – which were positioned so high up in the stadium you could be forgiven for thinking the fans were preparing to walk on the moon, the cries had to have come from the home support too. And they did.
Even Jose Mourinho – not the best loser we have ever seen – managed to congratulate the side who knocked his Blues out of Europe and a manager who may have just outfoxed him tactically on the night too.
Atleti may not have the money of a Real Madrid, a Chelsea or a Barcelona but they have beaten each of them at least once each this season and deservedly so.
In the summer that saw the arrival of both Gareth Bale and Neymar, no one looked outside the big two for the title. How wrong they were.
Whilst Barca and Real Madrid were busy chopping and changing managers and players, Atelti had to sell their biggest star – but they kept their manager, on loan goalkeeper and rising star Koke.
Not to mention the fact that Diego Costa emerged as one of the brightest stars in the world after spending the majority of his career bouncing around the lower echelons of the Spanish leagues, convinced by Diego Simeone that he could make that step up, bring something to the team and really make people sit up and take note. Well Costa certainly did that.
You only need to look at the official La Liga team of the year – and the sheer amount of Atleti players in it to know just how good they have been.
The likes of Koke and Courtois get all the praise – and have been pivotal make no mistake – but Miranda, Godin, Juan Fran, Gabi, Tiago and Arda Turan have all played their part, and without them the side would not have even finished in the top four.
It is a team effort, a squad effort.
There are no superstars, not even their manager (perhaps a marked difference between Mourinho and Simeone) and they have a bond with the fans that is unique.
Sides like Real Madrid and Barcelona have superstars, they have their Galacticos and rightly the players are heroes. At Atleti, they are heroes but they are also seen as players of the people. Touchable, accessible and human – and the players embrace that.
They know of their duty to the club and their bond with the fans. It is that, more than anything that has made them everyone’s second team this term – and it is not over yet.
The players and their coach have the chance to make history – and yes, they may have to do it without the injured Costa and potentially Arda Turan as well, but as long as they have heart and belief, they have a chance.
Diego Simeone has won at least one trophy in each of his three seasons at the club – and beat Real Madrid in their own back yard last term to lift the Copa del Rey. Beating them in Lisbon then? Easy peasy, no?
How well do you think Atleti have done this season? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.