In the Argentine summer, in December 2011, on vacation with his son Giuliano in Mar del Plata, without realizing it, Diego Simeone It was going to change your life and that of Atletico Madridto the legend he is today, honored this Wednesday by his club, its players, its coaching staff, its former teammates and its friends in an act at the Metropolitan Civitas Stadium like him coach with more games from the club historywith 613, already ahead of Luis Aragones.

“The team and the club need you”, said Simeone who then conveyed to him Miguel Ángel Gil Marin, CEO and largest shareholder of the entity rojiblanca. “When is the plane?” replied the technician. “I had prepared and expected this call for a long time. I knew that this possibility could arise of coming to Atlético de Madrid”, recalled the coach, then at Racing de Avellaneda.

“The step forward that Miguel took in that case wasn’t easy, because he hadn’t taken such an important path to reach that Atlético de Madrid at that time”, he recalled during the television “program” with which he formatted the club to his tribute from Metropolitan auditorium to the whole world.

Atlético, then, at the end of 2011, was a team adrift, obsessed with recovering an unattainable past at that time. It was just melancholy. An indelible but distant memory, imperceptible in the wreck that skirted the rojiblanco team.

Eliminated from the Copa del Rey by Albacete, then in Segunda B, at Vicente Calderón, but condemned long before Gregorio Manzano, the chosen one -the solution- was Simeone. The beginning of everything.

“He had gone through Catania, returned to Racing, we were there in December. I had gone on vacation for two or three days with my son Giuliano. A friend calls me (Toni Muñoz, his former colleague, present at the event): ‘Look, Miguel Ángel (Gil Marín, CEO) needs to talk to you. He’ll call you in two hours’. The two hours became eternal”, explained the Argentine coach.

His family, his players in the Atlético de Madrid first team, now and then; former teammates of his as a football player in the historic ‘double’ of 1995-96; club history; Enrique Cerezo, president of the entity, and the aforementioned Gil Marín, CEO…

Everyone involved Simeone in the homage. Last Saturday he overtook Luis Aragonés, who died in 2014, as the coach with the most appearances of all time for Atlético. On Friday, she wrote him a letter, which she gave to her son.

“It seemed important to me to take a step before receiving the award. It was writing a letter to a person who had come all the way. The only one who could really understand what was happening to me as a coach. We decided to write a letter and give it to his son. A step of respect and humility towards a person very dear to all of us and who will be eternal at Atlético de Madrid”, he said.

Falcao or “when the club started to believe that the path was to grow”

The Argentine coach does not dwell on triumphs, but “more on the moments” that made the team “grow”. “We went back the way of the first six months, we managed to get out of those difficulties that the team was in the League and win the Europa League”, contextualized the excerpt he referred to later.

“The club needed income. I remember a meal with Enrique (Cerezo) and Miguel (Gil Marín). We had Falcon, who needed to be carried by everyone and was in a great moment. We needed him to stay to continue growing as a team. The club chose to make us grow as a team. It gave us the opportunity to win the Copa del Rey (in 2012-13) and realize that we can win national tournaments. For me, it was a moment when the club started to believe that the path was to grow”, said Simeone.

Champion of the Europa League in 2011-12, that title, with Radamel Falcao as an undisputed figure (he was also present at the event), was followed by seven others: the 2013-14 and 2020-21 Leagues, the Copa del Rey in 2012- 13, the 2017-18 Europa League, the 2012 and 2018 European Super Cups and the 2014 Spanish Super Cup. And all 613 games.

“I have no doubt that all this happens after being lucky enough to have the most important thing a coach can have, which are football players who followed me and identified with a way of feeling the game. The most difficult thing is to convince them that they are in a club that needs to play that way, because the history of this club was based on this style of play. We can win, we can lose, but I’m sure we’ll always compete well,” he said.

What encounters does Simeone have on this very long journey? “When asked, the game of Barcelona (when they won the League on May 17, 2014 with a 1-1 at Camp Nou), Chelsea (1-3 in the semi-finals of the Champions League 2013-14 at Stamford Bridge), but what has stayed with me the most without a doubt in all these years is the final lost in Milan against Real Madrid on penalties, because you are no closer to winning”, he expressed about the 2016 duel at San Siro.

After that defeat, Simeone questioned his future. “After the Milan final, Simeone wanted to disappear. I contacted Natalia (Simeone, her sister and representative) and we spoke in Buenos Aires to be able to return to normality and be able to lift an injured man”, recalled Gil Marín.

“The closest thing to winning is having the cup, but the path has been fantastic, with courage, with courage, with hierarchy, with category, with a team that showed where it arrived and unfortunately fate did not want to give us that place, ” Added Simeone . , with the Champions League as the last unattainable threshold in his more than eleven years in charge of the Atlético bench, since his debut on January 7, 2012 in a 0-0 defeat by Málaga.

“When the dressing room is strong, it’s very difficult to compete against us”

And there he met players who gave him a “conviction and a firm idea”. “All this time we spend together, with the intensity with which we live it, you need to know what is the coach’s place and what is the footballer’s. And neither the coach nor the players pass it on. It is when something unique begins to be generated as we have been generating these years. When the locker room is strong it becomes very difficult to compete against us”, he explained.

“It completely changed me, you made me a better player, a better person. Fellowship in that captain-coach locker room… We were unique. Grateful for life”, commented Gabi Fernández through a video message. “Big numbers, big memory, there’s a lot behind it. An indelible mark on the fans, on the club and on me”, said Diego Godín. “He is one of the most important figures in the history of Atlético de Madrid”, intervened João Miranda. “We created an amazing wardrobe. We had a fantastic group”, highlighted Tiago Mendes. They are some of the players who marked the beginning of the Simeone era.

As Koke Resurrección, the current captain, from the 1st minute in the team in the Simeone era, from December 23, 2011 to the present. “In my career it was very important. He didn’t have the minutes you want when you’re young (with Manzano). (Simeone) He trusted me, said I was going to be important at the club. I believed his words. Then you have to prove it on the field, even today ”, he evaluated.

“Why not be a Ryan Giggs here?” asked Koke, the footballer with the most appearances in the history of Atlético de Madrid, where he has played his entire career, since he was a child until now.

“My sincere congratulations on this fantastic milestone you have just built. Finally there are those who accompany our dear Luis Aragonés at the top of the history of the coaches of this club”, said Fernando Torres, managed by both as rojiblanco, through a video.

He also spoke about the fans. “The illusion and emotion that people transmit when you arrive at the stadium before the game, you get emotional when you see the boys, the people, singing. And when you enter the field and see this wonderful stadium like we have, which is extraordinary, with people who are hooked like any other day. It’s something different. It is very difficult to explain with words. The most important thing in life is energy”, concluded the Argentine coach.

Nothing would have been possible without your family. He received a message from his mother, Nilda González. And beside him in the act were his wife Carla and three of their five children. “Family is what gives you strength. We live in a world where emotional stability is also very important to us. The people who accompany us with silence, with complaints, with anger generate sensations and are the ones that make you have that stability of being able to stay in the same place for so long”, commented Simeone, the coach with the most matches in the history of Atlético.

With information from EFE