Atletico Madrid players repay Simeone’s faith with title-winning comeback over Barcelona

Martino steps down as Barcelona manager after club complete season without major silverware
Atletico Madrid players toss coach Diego Simeone in the air after winning the Spanish Primera Liga with a 1-1 draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou on May 17, 2014, in Barcelona, Spain.  Alex Livesey / Getty Images
Atletico Madrid players toss coach Diego Simeone in the air after winning the Spanish Primera Liga with a 1-1 draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou on May 17, 2014, in Barcelona, Spain. Alex Livesey / Getty Images

BARCELONA // Diego Simeone, the Atletico Madrid manager, said he was moved after his title-winning team were applauded at the final whistle by the Barcelona fans.

“It’s one of the loveliest things that you can experience in football,” he said. “The applause for them rounded off the season wonderfully. We made history today.”

Simeone said there was no real mystery to what he said at halftime, when his team trailed before rallying for a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

“I told them what I had seen: that we had played well,” he said. “Beyond the injuries to important players – and we had to make two changes after 25 minutes – I told them that they were fine.

“I was convinced, I knew that if we could take advantage of the dead balls, we would be able to do something. The second half was incredible. We knew that we could do it.”

Simeone also took time to pay tribute to some departed friends.

“I want to share this moment with my people. They might not appear on the television but they work every bit as much, or more. I want to tell you how much I admire them.

He also mentioned some departed friends. “It’s a strange sensation,” he said. “There are people who are with us from up there, Luis [Aragones, a former player who died in February] and Jesus [former president Gil, who died in 2004]. I am sure he would have been in the area with us.

“I thought of people like my dad, mum, sister, who were here and others that couldn’t be. I am proud of the group that we have built. This is a group.

“There are people who deserved to play today but didn’t. I was unfair on some of them, but Madrid is rojiblanca [red and white] today.”  

Meanwhile, Barcelona coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino resigned after the game, ending speculation that he was to be replaced by former Camp Nou player Luis Enrique, who stepped down as Celta Vigo coach on Friday after reportedly meeting with Barcelona last week.

“I would like to thank the club for putting their confidence in me and I am sorry that I was unable to deliver,” Martino said. “The team fought to the end with lots of dignity.

“It has been an honour to coach this team. I want to thank the team, they are great players and great persons. The admiration for them stays. They will keep on winning.”

Andoni Zubizarreta, Barcelona’s sporting director, thanked Martino.

“Tata helped us in a difficult moment,” he said. “He showed you can be a great coach and a great person. He leaves many friends here.”

Barcelona will now make changes, according to president Josep Maria Bartomeu, after finishing their first season without winning any major hardware since 2008.

“There will be profound changes,” he said. “There are a number of players that already know they may not continue next season and others will come in.

“In the end, the players have worked and fought until the last minute. It is a team that is used to winning and always wants to win, but today it wasn’t to be.

“Our philosophy to keep the ball and control the play will continue to be the same.

“This is not the end of an era, but a continuation of that era with some profound changes.”

sports@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: May 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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