The FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlist inevitably generates controversy over some quizzical inclusions and shocking absentees among the candidates for the player's award as well as the coaches’. This year hasn’t been any different and without delving into the player-related argument, there’s one snub with regard to the list of coaches which seems particularly unjust. Diego Simeone has been a phenomenon in charge of Atletico Madrid but is cruelly denied the recognition he deserves.
Simeone took over the Madrid-based club on 23rd December 2011 and despite being a young and inexperienced manager, he brought immediate success to the team by guiding them to Europa League glory whilst finishing fifth in La Liga.
In his first full season in charge, things only got better. Atletico beat Chelsea, the then Champions League winners 4-0 to lift the Super Cup. Yes, that was in 2012 and the Coach of the Year award is handed to a manager who does exceptionally well in the ongoing calendar year but Simeone doesn’t disappoint in that regard either.
Not only did he lead Atletico to a third place finish in La Liga behind only Barcelona and Real Madrid to earn automatic qualification for the Champions League, but he also beat Jose Mourinho’s Madrid side in the Copa del Rey final to lift the trophy, their first piece of domestic silverware since 1996.
At the start of this season, Atletico drew home and away over two legs against Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana but lost out on away goals. Meanwhile, they’ve had a great start to their current league campaign having defeated Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu and presently sit second in the table, just one point behind Barcelona.
“He [Simeone] should have been nominated, but unfortunately for us we’re not the kind of club who makes the list. He deserved it. He’s one of those who most deserve it. He’s one of the coaches who have won the most trophies in the past few years. I’m more disappointed than annoyed. Simeone is the sensation of Europe.” – Atletico Madrid president, Enrique Cerezo
What’s more is that they’ve managed this fine start without the help of their top scorer over the past couple of seasons, Radamel Falcao. The striker left for AS Monaco in the summer but the Spanish club have done well to cope without him. The most impressive aspect of Simeone’s managerial stint with the club however, is the brand of football he’s implemented.
He has ensured that his side produces a vibrant and attractive style of play without over emphasizing one particular strategy. They don’t focus on possession football but are excellent with their passing while they don’t exclusively play on the counter-attack either but are lethal when they stride forward on the break.
The most frustrating part about the Argentine being overlooked for a mention in FIFA’s shortlist is that there are a couple of names on it that make the cut despite having little to justify their presence. Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger are the only two on the list who haven’t won any silverware at all this year.
Managerial record in 2013
|Atletico Madrid||44||26||11||7||59%||89||2.02||Copa del Rey||Supercopa de Espana Runners-up (Beaten on away goals by Barcelona)|
|Real Madrid/Chelsea||47||31||9||7||66%||102||2.17||None||Super Cup (Beaten by Bayern Munich), La Liga (15 points behind Barcelona), Copa del Rey (Beaten by Atletico Madrid)|
* Results in knockout games taken with normal points system i.e. 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a defeat.
It seems as though their reputations have preceded them and as a result, they find themselves among the finalists without really impressing. Both managers have had a good win record this year but that’s to be expected from the likes of Arsenal or Chelsea and Madrid in Mourinho’s case. The fact is they haven’t had many ‘big’ victories and haven’t won the games that mattered most.
Wenger’s only achievements this year were to finish fourth in the Premier League and now enjoy a good start to the season with Arsenal topping the table but from a favourable run of fixtures which consisted largely of games they should have won anyway.
Mourinho has had a poor year by his lofty standards as well, finishing 15 points behind Barcelona. In fact, he even went as far as to say that his 2012-13 season with Madrid was the worst of his managerial career – yet he’s named among the top ten coaches in the world.
Meanwhile, Simeone has worked with far less resources than the other two have been afforded but has nearly matched their results and has gone one further by securing a domestic trophy as well. His greatest achievement though has been to help Atletico nudge their way through and position themselves between the two La Liga giants.
He hasn’t quite broken the duopoly Barcelona and Real Madrid enjoy in La Liga but this season, he’s certainly threatening to do so with an Atletico side that’s rising to prominence and proving to offer real competition for the two juggernauts of Spanish football.
It’s because of his efforts in Spain that many now argue that the ‘big two’ in the league has grown into the ‘big three’. Simeone is already exceptional and you sense that he’s on the verge of greatness; sadly not enough of his peers recognize that.
|Should Simeone have been on the shortlist? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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