Street-fighter Simeone vs Guardiola’s Guile as Atletico take on Bayern
The Champions League semifinal, first leg clash between Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich sees two of the world’s best coaches in Diego Simeone and Pep Guardiola put their very different football philosophies to the test.football Updated: Apr 27, 2016 15:00 IST
In the star-studded surroundings of a Champions League semi-final, it is rare that the 22 men on the pitch are overshadowed by the two suited generals on the touchline seeking to outdo one another.
However, the clash between Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich on Wednesday sees two of the world’s best coaches in Diego Simeone and Pep Guardiola put their very different football philosophies to the test.
Here’s how Simeone and Guardiola match up.
The two-legged semi-final seems set for a classic clash of Europe’s best defence against one of the most offensively minded teams on the continent.
Simeone’s nickname “Cholo” derives from the poor, hard-working classes of South America and is reflected in the tireless effort of his team.
At the core of Simeone’s success at Atletico has been a record-breaking defensive system that has continued to function even as some of the key parts have had to be sold off.
Simeone’s men have already kept a remarkable 32 clean sheets this season and conceded only four goals in 16 previous Champions League games at home, including only once in seven games in the knockout stages.
Guardiola shot to prominence with the free-flowing attacking football which saw him win the competition twice with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011.
That style has followed him in his three years at Bayern with the German giants the Champions League’s top scorers with 28 goals this season.
In terms of trophies won, Guardiola is understandably streets ahead having managed two powerhouses like Barcelona and Bayern in his seven years as a coach.
The Catalan has won 19 trophies. Bayern are just one Bundesliga win away from delivering his 20th and still in the hunt to complete a treble this season as they face Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final next month.
Moreover, Guardiola has reached the Champions League semi-finals in all seven of his seasons as a coach, but has lost four of the previous six and is yet to take Bayern to the final.
Simeone’s seven trophies seem modest by comparison, but his transformation of Atletico from crisis-ridden underachievers to a side punching above their weight by consistently challenging Barcelona and Real Madrid is arguably an even greater achievement than any of Guardiola’s.
“The biggest title that Atletico have won with Simeone and his coaching staff is to be compared with Barca and Real Madrid,” said Guardiola on Tuesday.
The Argentine has won La Liga, the Europa League, Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup and European Super Cup during his four-and-a-half years in charge. Only the Champions League has eluded him.
What their players say
Diego Godin, Atletico Madrid defender, said of Simeone: “Cholo is the stone around which this project is constructed.
“He has strengthened this group of players, he has made the sporting part of the club work, he has made the players and fans believe, not just with words but with acts.”
Xabi Alonso, Bayern Munich midfielder, said, “Day-to-day you observe the way he (Guardiola) works, analysing and studying his nuances. He’s very diligent and methodical in the way that he works.
“It’s been a really positive experience up to now during these two years in Germany that has helped me to improve, to learn a lot and now here we are at the end of the season with the chance to win everything.”
Guardiola has already announced his decision to leave Bayern for Manchester City next season. Simeone has also been courted by the cash-rich Premier League, but has so far resisted due to his love for Atletico.
There are also doubts as to how well Simeone’s demands would work with a more talented, but equally ego-driven squad. Atletico’s hope and expectation is that he will at least stay to lead them into their new stadium in the 2017-18 season.